6/30/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 4a-b translation of Tzvee Zahavy

K.            Said the master, The unleavened bread of a Samaritan is permitted [for consumption on Passover] and a person may fulfill his obligation [to eat unleavened bread with it] on Passover. But this is obvious. [No it is not.] For you might have argued that they are not expert in the rules for guarding [the wheat from becoming fermented]. It comes to teach us [that they are trusted].

L.            R. Eliezer prohibits [eating it] because they are not as expert in the details of unleavened bread as Israelites. He reasons that they are not expert in the rules for guarding [the wheat from becoming fermented].

Times: Hebrew National Kosher Hot Dogs on the Fourth of July

Quite an interesting op-ed, and sure to stir some controversy in its negative characterization of the Orthodox view of the kosher nature of Hebrew National products.
Red, White and Kosher
By SUE FISHKOFF
Oakland, Calif.

IN 1972, a TV commercial changed the way Americans looked at kosher food. It showed Uncle Sam munching on a Hebrew National beef hot dog as a heavenly voice assures him it is free of the additives and byproducts present in lesser processed meats.

“We answer to a higher authority,” the voice proclaims. Trust us — we’re kosher.

6/28/11

Talmud - Daf Yomi - Bavli Hullin 2 and 3 - Translation of Tzvee Zahavy



                                                                 1:1 A-D
                A.            (1) All may slaughter,
        (2) and their act of slaughter is valid,
                B.            Except for a deaf-mute, an imbecile, and a minor
                (C.           lest they impair [the fitness of the carcass] through their act of slaughter).
                D.           But all of them [=B] who performed an act of slaughter, with others watching them — their act of slaughter is valid.

I.1
A.            [The Mishnah presents us with a contradiction.] All may slaughter, [implies that they may do so] to begin with. And their act of slaughter is valid, [implies that they may not do so to begin with but if they already performed the act of slaughter] after the fact [their actions are deemed proper].

Is Larry David Jewish?

Yes Larry David is a Jew. He was born in 1947 to a Jewish family in the neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, New York.

He now has written a twisted essay about golf in the New Yorker, filed under the keywords: Golf; Sports; Elisabeth Kübler-Ross; “On Death and Dying”; Anger; Denial; Bargaining - really strange.

In March 2010 the Times wrote about David's plan for syndicating his show.

The HBO Larry David show is so far out and controversial that on more than one occasion we have come away from watching it shaking our head and saying out loud with a smile, "That guy is one sick puppy."

But he is a comic genius. In transforming his cable show to syndication, David made a deal, then changed his mind. The Times describes the drama, the problem and the solution, which includes adding a rabbi to a panel discussion on the ethics to accompany the airing of every show. Just brilliant. But we simply don't have time to join the panel. Too busy writing a serious book. Sorry Larry.
In Syndication, the Agonizing on ‘Curb’ Is Only Escalating
By BILL CARTER

The new owners of the TV Guide Network believed they had found just the right show to send the message that the channel was getting into the business of broadcasting programs instead of listing them.

In November, the channel — previously known for running a scroll of what’s on other channels — snapped up the first syndication rights to Larry David’s HBO comedy “Curb Your Enthusiasm” for an undisclosed price. There was only one problem: almost immediately after he agreed to the sale, Mr. David had seller’s remorse.

The reason? Almost every episode of “Curb” is 29 minutes long — or longer. That’s fine for HBO, which has no commercials; but in syndication, half-hour shows run only about 21 minutes to accommodate all the advertisements.

“I regretted it instantly,” Mr. David said in a telephone interview. “I knew there was no way they would be able to cut it down.”

Is Former Governor Rod Blagojevich Jewish?

No, former Governor of Illinois Milorad Rod R. Blagojevich is not a Jew.

This guy does have a lot of chutzpah!

He is a Serbian American and a member of the Serbian Orthodox church.

In 2003 Blagojevich was the first Democrat to be elected governor of Illinois in 30 years.

Rod was arrested by federal law enforcement agents and charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud as well as solicitation of bribery.

Ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich was found guilty June 27, 2011 of 17 of the 20 counts he faced in his corruption retrial.


In a poll completed on October 13, 2008 Blagojevich's approval rating among Illinois voters was 4%.

He was removed from office by unanimous vote on January 29, 2009.

[updated]

6/26/11

The Rules of Golf and the Study of Talmud

We posted this golf analogy on 6/24/2010. Another season, another visit....

A WSJ article last year about the rules of golf ("Rules Are Made to Be ... Completely Baffling") invoked the Talmud. We agree that the intricate interpretation of the rules of golf can at times remind one of Talmudic analysis,
“The main reason there are so many rules and decisions is because the playground is so large and varied, and almost anything can happen. It’s not like tennis, where the courts are uniform,” said Mr. Fay. Every four years the USGA and its fellow rules-making body, the Royal and Ancient in Great Britain, announce new and amended rules to adapt to new circumstances, and new decisions are rendered constantly, all of which rules scholars study like the Talmud.

Fundamentally, however, the rules can be reduced to a few underlying principles—only two, in the opinion of John Minan, a professor at the University of San Diego School of Law and author of “The Little Green Book of Golf Law.” The first is to play the course as you find it and the second is to play your ball without touching it until you hole out—except, of course, when there are exceptions. The rules define and explain the exceptions. And for situations that aren’t covered in the rules, there’s the all-important equity clause, Rule 1.4: When in doubt, do what’s fair.
The Talmudic analogy is a propos. For golf rules, there are basic principles, a set of detailed laws in a code book and case studies on how the laws are applied.

6/25/11

Jstandard: Our Teaneck Neighbor Robin Rochlin takes New Responsibilities for Jewish Federation Endowments

Jewish Standard reports that our Teaneck neighbor down the block, Robin Rochlin, has taken on new responsibilities as head of the local Jewish Federation Endowments. We wish her good luck, mazal tov.
...The concept behind endowment giving is “forward thinking,” says Teaneck resident Robin Rochlin, newly appointed director of Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey’s Endowment Foundation.

“With an endowment, you create a fund with the purpose of generating dollars to fund a particular project over a long period of time. It’s meant to last in perpetuity — it’s giving for tomorrow,” said Rochlin, also named the federation’s assistant executive vice president for endowment.

Rochlin, who served for seven years as the foundation’s assistant director, will continue many of the duties she already performs, “but my responsibilities will be broader,” she said. “I’ll have the ultimate responsibility for the growth of the endowment foundation.”...

6/24/11

Kindle Snafu: Innovative Jewish Education is a Fairy Tale

Imagine that. You go to a blog called "Free Books on Kindle" and there is a listing that:
Sh’ma on Innovative Jewish Learning by Judd Kruger Livingston, Russel Neis, Lisa D. Grant, Jennifer Glaser, Stephen Hazan Arnoff, Charlie Schwarts, Kim Hirsh, Jonathan S. Woocher, and Lee S. Shulman (that’s a heck of a lot of authors) is free today from the Amazon Kindle store...
Sounds good to us. So we go there and download the book and open it and lo and behold the content of the books is "English Fairy Tales" with the Sh'ma volume header -- clearly a mixup over at Kindle.

So we go back and find another version of the Sh'ma volume for $2.99 and download it and yes, it is the real thing. And it has a lot of writing on innovative Jewish learning, which is no fairy tale.

Olivia Solon for Wired: JK Rowling will Self Publish e-books


Olivia Solon has blogged on Wired that JK Rowling will Self Publish Via e-books in a new venture called Pottermore.

Wow, this is a breakthrough for e-books and it also looks like it will be a wonderful web site.
After a week of heavy speculation, JK Rowling has revealed that she is to self-publish the e-books to her mind-bogglingly successful Harry Potter series through her newly-announced proprietary platform, Pottermore.

While self-publishing in itself is not new -- Stephen King has been distributing self-published chapters since 2000 and others, including Amanda Hocking, J.A. Konrath and more recently John Locke have sold millions of copies through the Kindle store -- Rowling is without a doubt the single most significant author to have turned their back on established publishing houses at a time when the industry is in limbo and the tools are available to create meaningful and innovative digital publications untethered from a small stranglehold of publishers whose businesses are built upon the printed page.

The crucial parallel between Radiohead and Rowling is the fact that they both put their faith in the fans rather than any intermediary. For Radiohead, this meant self-releasing their album In Rainbows after the end of their contract with EMI with an honesty-box pricing strategy. For Rowling it means keeping the e-books DRM-free and trusting her fans not to pirate her works rather than assuming that they will. Rowling is instead opting for a digital watermarking system that links the identify of the purchaser to the copy of the ebook. This doesn't prevent people sharing copies on the web, but does try to ensure that any copies will be traceable to a buyer.

Because the books are said to be "available on any platform", there will need to be some sort of arrangement with the likes of Amazon and iBooks -- whether commercial or logistical -- to ensure that readers can enjoy Potter on their Kindles and iPads...

6/22/11

The Jewish Week Exposes a New Crisis in Judaism: Orthodox Teens Text on Shabbos

From the Jewish Week a "dramatic" expose, For Many Orthodox Teens, 'Half Shabbos' Is A Way Of Life.

We have a sense that (1) it is not just Orthodox teens who step over blanket Orthodox taboos like this one against personal communications technology and (2) Judaism will adapt to this crisis of faith and will survive.
...The practice has become so widespread – some say half of Modern Orthodox teens text on Shabbat – that it has developed its own nomenclature – keeping “half Shabbos,” for those who observe all the Shabbat regulations except for texting; “gd Shbs,” is the shorthand text greeting that means good Shabbos...
We like this humorous take on the problem,
The frumsatire.net Website carried a fictional report that Modern Orthodox rabbis “have begun to consider texting during shul on Shabbos to curb talking,” in order to keep synagogues quiet during religious services.

6/21/11

Is it Kosher? The Talmud Explains in Tractate Hullin as Translated by Tzvee Zahavy

Highly recommended for all Jewish homes, synagogues and libraries, and an excellent gift idea.

Superior to the Artscroll or Soncino translations...

Just in time for Daf Yomi daily Talmud study of this tractate, a reminder that University Press of America published these two volumes.

Tzvee Zahavy and a professor


This work sets forth the main points of the Halakhah of the topological expositions or tractates of the Mishnah-Tosefta-Bavli Hullin and lays out the theological message of the tractate. It yields a systematic account of the Halakhah in its documentary unfolding.

The uniqueness of
Tzvee Zahavy’s expertise in the academic study of the Talmud and in the analytical interpretation of Jewish prayer stems from his background, training, and accomplishment. He was ordained at Yeshiva University, where he studied with Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik and Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein. He received his PhD from Brown University. He has taught more than 6000 students and received awards for his Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship from Yeshiva University and for Distinguished Teaching from the University of Minnesota. He was awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, and the American Council of Learned Societies, and he served since 2009 as adjunct professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

The real measure of so and so’s contribution to the study of religion emerges from the originality, excellence, and scope of his learning.  —from the Encyclopaedia Judaica, second edition. 


For orders and information please contact Tzvee or the publisher University Press of America®, Inc. 4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200 Lanham, Maryland 20706, www.univpress.com

6/17/11

NYT Magazine: Amanda Hocking, the billion dollar star of Amazon Kindle self-publishing

Self-publishing has its advocates (Internet companies) and its enemies (traditional publishers). 

The NY Times Magazine sides with the advocates this week, running a seriously positive story about Amanda Hocking from Austin Minnesota, who has the potential of becoming the first Amazon Kindle self-published billionaire author. To be accurate, she now is no longer self-published. But that is indeed how she started out not too long ago.

Storyseller

By STRAWBERRY SAROYAN
Amanda Hocking, the star of self-publishing, was sitting in the front seat of her Ford Escape earlier this spring when she spotted a messenger delivering flowers to her home in Austin, Minn. She watched her best friend and roommate, Eric Goldman, get the door. ... more...

Welcome to our Family Eitan Aviv Zahavy

Two weeks ago we had the honor of saying a few words at the brit milah of our newest grandchild Eitan Aviv Zahavy....

The brit milah Jewish circumcision ceremony begins with the mohel greeting the baby, “Blessed be the one who has arrived.”

He then intones as the baby is placed on the seat of Elijah, “This is the seat of Elijah the Prophet, may he be remembered for good.”

Elijah is known as an intermediary between heaven and earth. The bible tells us that he did not die. He ascended to heaven in a flaming chariot. We welcome this mystical personality to the brit milah or every Jewish child.

The verses that follow recited by the mohel in the introduction to the brit milah in fact invoke and invite three of the praying Jewish personalities to the ceremony – the mystic, the scribe and the priest.

1. For your salvation I wait, O Lord. (Gen. 49) לִישׁוּעָתְךָ, קִוִּיתִי יְהוָה

2. I await your deliverance, Lord, and I observe your commandments.(Ps. 119) שִׂבַּרְתִּי לִישׁוּעָתְךָ יְהוָה; וּמִצְו‍ֹתֶיךָ עָשִׂיתִי

3. Elijah, angel of the covenant, behold: yours is before you. Stand at my right hand and be close to me.

4. I await your deliverance, Lord. (Ps. 119) שִׂבַּרְתִּי לִישׁוּעָתְךָ יְהוָה

5. I rejoice in your word like one who finds much spoil. (Ps. 119) שָׂשׂ אָנֹכִי, עַל-אִמְרָתֶךָ-- כְּמוֹצֵא, שָׁלָל רָב.

6. Those who love your Torah have great peace, and there is no stumbling block before them. (Ps. 119) שָׁלוֹם רָב, לְאֹהֲבֵי תוֹרָתֶךָ; וְאֵין-לָמוֹ מִכְשׁוֹל

7. Happy are those you choose and bring near to dwell in your courts. (Ps. 65) אַשְׁרֵי, תִּבְחַר וּתְקָרֵב-- יִשְׁכֹּן חֲצֵרֶיךָ

All Respond:

May we be sated with the goodness of your house, your holy temple. (Ps. 65) נִשְׂבְּעָה, בְּטוּב בֵּיתֶךָ; קְדֹשׁ, הֵיכָלֶךָ

The mystic speaks through the first verse, taken from Jacob’s blessing to his son Dan from Genesis.

The scribe responds in the second verse taken from Psalms, linking deliverance to the practice of the commandments.

Next, in a non-biblical phrase, the mystic makes a rare call directly to a heavenly figure, to Elijah, who he calls an angel, to come and join the ceremony, to stand over the mohel and aid him in his sacred task of welcoming a new Jew into the covenant.

The mystic then repeats the verse from Psalms, without the concluding invocation of the commandments.

The scribe replies with the assurance from Psalms that he finds joy in the words of the Torah, that he loves the Torah, that the Torah removes all obstacles.

Finally the priest chimes in to assert from elsewhere in Psalms that happiness comes from the Temple. And all those assembled at the brit complete the verse and endorse that belief.

Thus the seemingly diverse introductory sentences that the mohel recites invokes in certain if subtle ways three sources of blessings and three sources of holiness, those of the mystic, the scribe and the priest.

And we can say one bit more. Those at the ceremony at the conclusion wish the baby a life of Torah, Huppah and good deeds.

The mystical element of blessing and holiness, invoked via Elijah at the outset, corresponds to the hope for holiness through the wish to the baby for the mystical union of husband and wife, the huppah.

The scribal element of blessing and holiness, invoked via the Torah, corresponds to the hope for holiness through the wish to the baby for Torah.

And the priestly element of blessing and holiness, invoked via the Temple, corresponds to the hope for holiness through the wish to the baby for good deeds.

And while we find more structured meanings in these passages, the initial sense of the spontaneous recitation of the mohels sundry introductory verses, gives it a freshness that corresponds well with the welcoming of a new Jew into our family.

6/16/11

Rabbi Marc Schneier Redeemed by Tablet Magazine's Allison Hoffman

We read "Beachhead" by Allison Hoffman at Tablet Magazine, A New Read on Jewish Life.

The article redeems Rabbi Marc Schneier saying, "Rabbi Marc Schneier’s Hampton Synagogue caters to New York’s wealthiest at their summer playground. As his personal life spun out of control and into the tabloids, they returned the favor by closing ranks around him."

Good luck Rabbi Schneier. Hope your life spins back into control now.

Animals in Rabbinic Judaism and other Fact-Filled Jewish Articles

Here are links to a bunch of fact-filled encyclopedia articles that we wrote about ancient rabbis and various Jewish topics.
Macmillan Dictionary of Biblical Judaism (65 entries):

Abadim (tractate); Academy on High; Aha b. Rav; Aha of Shabha; Animals, Treatment of in Rabbinic Judaism; Balsam; Batlan; Beard and Shaving; Beggars and Begging; Birkat David; Birkat Geulah; Birkat Ha'aretz; Birkat Hahodesh; Birkat Haminim; Birkat Hamishpat; Birkat Hanehenim; Birkat Hashanim; Birkat Hashir; Birkat Hatov Vehametiv; Birkat Hatzadikim; Birkat Hazan; Birkat Hatanim; Birkat Yerushalaim; Evil eye, in Rabbinic Judaism; Fables, Rabbinic; Flogging; Gambling; Heqdesh; Jeremiah b. Abba; Lease, Rabbinic law of; Listes; Martyrs, ten; Me`ilah; Medicine, Talmudic; Mekilta of R. Simeon b. Yohai; Men of the Great Assembly; Mezuzah (tractate); Money lending; Monogamy and polygamy; Nations, the seventy; New Moon; Noahides; Oil, use in Rabbinic Period; Partnership; Property, Rabbinic law for lost; Qal vehomer; Sale, Talmudic law of; Sefer Torah (tractate); She'iltot; Shofarot; Sick, visiting; Simeon Hatimni; Simeon b. Shetah; Simeon b. Yohai; Takkanah; Tefillin (tractate); Triennial Cycle; Tzitzit (tractate); Wills; Wine; Zaddiq; 'Abot (tractate); 'Asmakta'; 'Ona'ah; 'Ones. NY, 1996

Beruryah ," "Joshua ben Hananiah," "Judah bar Ilai," "Meir," "Simeon bar Yohai," "Simeon ben Gamaliel," "Tarfon," "Yose ben Halafta." Articles for The Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. M. Eliade, The Free Press, Macmillan: New York, December, 1986.
Here is one example:

6/15/11

Forward Writer Attacks Hebrew Language Charter Schools

We read the article, "Hebrew Language Charter Schools Are a Bad Bargain: Why They Are Not the Path to the Jewish Future," on Forward.com and we thought it was a travesty.

This article is disappointing and misleading because of its false assumptions. Not a single parent believes that a charter school is a one-for-one replacement for a day school. The writer would have you believe that was the case. Nobody believes that it is a "potential magic bullet" for Jewish education. A Hebrew charter school is an alternative and different in obvious ways from a day school. Nobody thinks that this new kind of school is a replay of the Talmud Torah schools of the 20th century. And when the writer says for Jewish education these schools take "erosion to a new, dangerous, level" we cringe. The assertion that one model works and others lead to peril is just ignorant patent alarmist rhetoric with no substance at all.

There are many paths to the Jewish future and charter schools represent one innovative alternative, nothing more, nothing less. These schools are not bad and are not bargains. They are based on many good ideas and they are  full service government funded schools. Lots of hard work goes into founding a charter school or any school.

It's a mean and nasty cheap shot directed at Hebrew charter schools to dismiss such worthwhile efforts with this sort of op-ed essay by Jerome A. Chanes and published by the Forward.

6/14/11

Is Argentina's Political Candidate Sergio Bergman Jewish?

Yes, Argentinian Rabbi Sergio Bergman is a Jew. He was chosen by Buenos Aires' mayor, Mauricio Macri, to lead his PRO party’s list for the municipal legislature.
In Buenos Aires, a mayor facing a Jewish challenger taps a rabbi to lead his party’s list
By Diego Melamed

BUENOS AIRES (JTA) -- Rabbi Sergio Bergman, already one of Buenos Aires’ most prominent spiritual leaders, has become one of the Argentine capital’s most highly visible political candidates.

Bergman was tapped by the city’s incumbent mayor, Mauricio Macri, to lead his PRO party’s list for the municipal legislature. As the top candidate on the center-right party's slate, the rabbi is virtually assured of securing a spot in the city legislature in the July 10 municipal elections.

Meanwhile, Macri’s main challenger for the mayoralty is Jewish. Daniel Filmus, a former Argentine education minister, will be facing off against Macri for the city’s top job for a second time. Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, picked Filmus to run as the candidate of her center-left Victory Front...more...

6/12/11

Is Gov. Rick Perry's plan for a day of Christian prayer bad for the Jews?

Is Gov. Rick Perry's plan for a day of Christian prayer bad for the Jews? Yes it is bad for the Jews and for the Catholics and for the Muslims, Jains, Buddhists, atheists and for our country as a whole.

Politicians should stay out of our religions and keep religion out of our government on all levels. Separation of church from state is a vital part of what makes our pluralistic democracy vibrant. Sadly, the manipulation of religion for political gain has become ever more commonplace in our age.

A governor is elected to be a state's executive. Prayer recitation is not a part of the expected skill set that a governor needs so as to manage his state. And even if you impute sincerity to the governor, and say that he is not a crass manipulator of religion for political gain, we are in real trouble if Perry is so out of ideas and so bereft of skills that he resorts to prayer as a primary tool in his efforts to govern effectively.

The Times reports:
Texas Governor Draws Criticism on Prayer Event
By MANNY FERNANDEZ and ERIK ECKHOLM
AUSTIN, Tex. — When Gov. Rick Perry invited fellow governors to join him on Aug. 6 for “a day of prayer and fasting on behalf of our troubled nation,” some speculated that he was trying to raise his national visibility for a possible presidential run.

Absolutely not, said Mr. Perry, a conservative Christian who described the event, to be held in a Houston stadium, as an “apolitical Christian prayer service” to provide “spiritual solutions to the many challenges we face in our communities, states and nation.”

Whatever the goals, his plan has drawn strong protests from advocates for the separation of church and state, who say an elected leader should not be leading what looks to be, in effect, an evangelical Christian revival. Gay rights groups are also objecting because Mr. Perry placed the event in the hands of conservative religious groups that not only oppose gay marriage but also stridently condemn homosexuality...more...

Tzvee's Talmudic Blog Passes One Million Page Views

Thank you everyone for coming to read us.

This weekend Tzvee's Talmudic Blog passed the "One Million Page Views" mark. We find that amazing.

We've been providing for some time now 3330 blog posts with bits of talmudic analysis and opinions on religion, jews, judaism, tanakh, bible, talmud, mishnah, midrash, haggadah, israel, rabbis, anti-semitism; synagogues, prayer, liturgy, siddur; teaneck, scandals, universities; politics, minnesota; terrorism, inventions, google, amazon, iPad. נושאים: דת, יהודים, יהדות, תנ"ך, מקרא, תלמוד, משנה, מדרש, ישראל, רבנים, אנטישמיות, בתי כנסת, תפילה, סידור, ארכיטיפים

We'll keep doing this for another while. Lots of stuff going on. Stay tuned.

Okay. We can't resist  repeating the awful headline that the New York Post came up with recently to describe tacky Congressman Anthony Weiner's resolve not to resign under fire from his office: "WEINER: I'LL STICK IT OUT."

We will stick it out too, i.e., continue blogging along.

6/10/11

YouTube: Explore Ancient Synagogues in Israel with Tzvee

Here are two levels of archaeology . First, our video presents our commentary to our visits in 1983 to ancient synagogue sites in Israel. We broke the video into three segments so that we could post it to YouTube.

We undertook a second archeological "expedition" in August 2009 to unearth and recover the video itself. We had to find the ancient video tape so we could use it as a supplementary resource for our course on Jewish liturgy at JTS. Then when we had it in hand, it would not play properly on one VCR so we tried it on another. To capture and convert the images we sent it through our wireless Hava device to our desktop and then we worked some magic on the capture. Enjoy. Zahavy's Channel. (repost)

6/9/11

Is Congressman Anthony Weiner Jewish?

Yes, Anthony Weiner is a Jew. He was brought up in Park Slope Brooklyn.

He is involved in a weird public scandal which has generated utterly unusual commentary and articles like these:

New Yorker
Of Course I Take Pictures of My Penis and Send Them to People
Posted by John Kenney

Jewish Journal
Did Anthony Weiner’s Jewish Penis Crave Sex with a Jewish Woman?
Posted by Ilana Angel

6/7/11

Blintzes for Shavuot

On Shavuot (Pentecost) starting tonight, Tuesday night 6/7, the custom is to eat dairy meals. There are many reasons given for this custom: historical, midrashic, numerological, mystical, etymological, and of course, Talmudic. See them all discussed here.

Speaking of Jewish dairy meals, the best blintzes we ever ate were at the formerly kosher restaurant, Ratner's on Delancy Street. Mmm, we can taste them now. (In 2001, sadly the place went non-kosher.)

Barry Popik has collected all you ever want to know about these blini foods on his Big Apple Blog post:
The “blintze” (or “blintz,” usually plural as “blintzes,” a diminutive from the Russian “blin” for pancake or crêpe) was served on the Jewish Lower East Side of Manhattan by at least 1900. Ratner’s restaurant on Delancey Street (1905-2002) served blintzes (cheese, potato, cherry, prune, apple and other fillings) with sour cream and became almost an institution, also selling blintzes to the frozen foods sections of supermarkets.

“Blinis” are cited in English in the Russian cuisine from at least the early 1800s....more...
It's not easy to make good blintzes from scratch but here is a recipe if you want to try.

Most of us buy them frozen now. Alas.

Happy Shavuot.

6/6/11

Should NJ Gov. Chris Christie Resign?



NJ Gov. Chris Christie misused state helicopters for his own personal use. In plain words, he stole from NJ residents, like us. When caught, he said he'd pay the money he stole back. He was not at all apologetic. This action was a clearly unprofessional act, if not a prosecutable crime, certainly a direct violation of the trust that NJ residents who voted for him placed in him.

Yes we think that NJ Gov. Chris Christie got caught with his hand in the cookie jar and he should resign.

6/5/11

60 Minutes CBS Video: City of David

Repeated on tonight's show from last October, the 60 Minutes CBS report on the City of David archeological excavations and their political implications.

Bergen Record: Gov. Chris Christie Bluffs and Bullies Over His Misuse of State Helicopter

The Bergen Record (normally squarely behind Christie) has come out highly critical of the Governor's leadership. It appears he has been dumped by the right wing.

They say in the Record re the helicopter ride:
The governor, who's criticized other politicians for wasteful spending and abuse of government perks, used a state police helicopter last Tuesday to travel from Mercer County to his son's baseball game in Montvale, and then back to Mercer County to dine with Iowa Republicans who want him to run for president.

Accepting responsibility: He said the state police's security detail decides when to use the helicopter to meet his travel demands, but added "ultimately these are my judgments."

Casting blame: Christie and the New Jersey Republican Party reimbursed the state for the cost of the helicopter trip, but only because he said the story had become a distraction fueled by the media and Democrats.

"These guys are a joke and this is why the people of New Jersey reject that kind of politics," Christie said. "I am not going to allow the media and the hacks in the Democratic Party to turn this into something that allows them to do what they always like to do, which is get away from the serious issues where they have to make hard choices for things that matter because they want to have a circus."
We can't understand why he needed a helicopter in the first place. The Governor looks like a human blimp who could have sailed over on his own - see the picture.

Michael Medved Hates the New York Times

Rhetoric is reality for the extremist right wing ideologue Michael Medved. The man pretends that he does not know the difference between metaphor and fact. In his reeking blog screed, The New York Times as Substitute for Religion, Medved reaches new lows,  in a snarky attack on the new editor of the NY Times.

It's amazing the Daily Beast would publish this piece. The average readers there who took the time to comment nearly universally ravaged Medved, taking him to task in every way. It's worth reading through the comments to see how completely the readership rejects Medved.

We are disgusted by the utter lack of derech eretz, i.e., respect, shown by Medved for the new appointment to the premier newspaper in the country. It sounds to us like the writer is emotionally motivated by an irrational hatred of the newspaper.

We are ashamed of his statement and thoroughly reject it.

We extend our sincere congratulations to Jill Abramson on her promotion to editor of the Times. Mazal tov.

Assaf Wohl on ynet: Why Israelis Hate Their Rabbis

We've heard lots of complaints about the rabbinate in Israel. Assaf Wohl sums them up in his ynet op-ed.
Why the rabbis are hated
Op-ed: Rabbinical coercion, corruption and greed prompt hostility towards rabbis, Judaism
Assaf Wohl

Reports that the salary of city rabbis will be raised to up to NIS 29,000 (roughly $8,500) per month prompted thousands of angry reactions. Several rabbis were genuinely wondering about the source of what they characterized as the “hatred” towards them. After all, they serve the public faithfully.

Hence, I will attempt here to present the arguments against the Rabbinate as reflected by the responses to the recent pay raise.

Firstly, the Rabbinate has become the “military wing” of the haredi community. Through it, the haredim abuse the rest of the population. Through the Rabbinate they force Israel’s citizens to get married, divorce, convert and set their clocks the haredi way. And as we know, depriving human beings of freedom provokes fury. Hence, one needs great chutzpa to force people to behave in ways they don’t wish to adopt.

Will a religious person agree to eat pork of desecrate the Shabbat? Heaven forbid. Then why would the religious community force others to adopt customs that others view as a big no-no?

Secondly, the Rabbinate is perceived as a corrupt body that produces nothing but jobs for its close associates. In fact, it is a sort of closed off elite that mostly takes care of the people it cares about; a body meant to feed only one sector – the haredim. The best proof of this is that the haredi rabbis and kashrut supervisors who took the Rabbinate hostage don’t even recognize the kosher certificates they issue. It’s only an income source for them.

The American model
The National-Religious Jews are kept out. Reform Jews are out, Conservative Jews are out, and anyone who doesn’t have the beard and hat required by the clique is out. And what about women? Don’t even mention that.

What kind of theocracy has been created within our democracy? Where else will you find a job that is paid by the public and is good for life, like the city rabbi position? And why do we need two chief rabbis, at an exorbitant cost?

Thirdly, there’s the issue of the economic situation and market conditions. After all, social workers, doctors and police officers are employed under disgraceful terms, yet their jobs are perceived as much more vital than the abstract, spiritual work done by the rabbis. What will happen if the rabbis strike tomorrow? The sun won’t shine? Now let’s try to imagine a day without doctors.

Meanwhile, the argument that we can say the same about humanities researchers is invalid for a simple reason: Their cost is a fraction of the cost of rabbis. Have you ever heard of a “neighborhood anthropologist” or a “chief Sephardic philosopher?”

The coercion, the costs, the hunger for power, and the translation of Judaism into money all prompt open hostility towards the Rabbinate and Judaism. The solution can apparently be found in the American model. It is precisely the separation of religion and State in the US that boosted the status of religion. Indeed, the caption “In God We Trust” can be found on every American bill. It appears that in America, the dollar trusts God. Around here, thanks to religious politicians, God puts His trust in the dollar.

6/4/11

Google +1 is Here

Check out the bottom of this post and every post on this blog. You can share a link to these sites by clicking the +1 button on a post. That adds a link to the content to your Google profile under the +1 tab. Good luck to Google on launching this new social feature.

Here is some of what Search Engine Land says about the button:
The button looks and acts, of course, much like the existing social buttons that you see regularly on all kinds of websites — but make no mistake that this is Google’s most direct attempt yet to compete with Facebook’s nearly ubiquitous “Like” button, which has practically become the default way we share content online. Google has repeatedly said that it would like access to Facebook’s data to improve search results, but the two sides have been unable to work out anything along those lines.
The button will also affect search ranking in ways that are not totally clear. See this article, Google +1 Button: 31 Things You Should Know, for 31 more details about the button.

6/2/11

Is Glenn Beck Jewish?

No, Glenn Beck is not a Jew. He was raised a Roman Catholic in Bellingham, Washington. Beck is a recovering alcoholic and a follower of the spiritual programs of Alcoholics Anonymous. He formally converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons. "God stalked me!...He had a giant baptismal rifle," Beck has said melodramatically. "I thwarted him. I led people astray as much as I could, but he kept putting Mormons in my way."

Update: 11/12/2010 - Glenn does not like Jewish billionaire Holocaust survivor George Soros. The Daily Beast said, "The Fox host’s stunning two-day tirade against George Soros is a new low on American television."

Given the comical penchant that this right-wing, gingoistic, narrow-minded and bigoted Fox News TV and radio personality has for theatrical overstatement (he feigned crying recently about his love for America while on the air), we recommend watching this video clip of a hilarious parody of Glenn Beck by comedian Stephen Colbert.
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The 10/31 Project
comedycentral.com
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A good Glenn Beck watch page is here.

Update 6/2/2011: Beck is a hard line supporter of the State of Israel as the video demonstrates.


(Reposted)