9/30/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 97a-b - translation by Tzvee


C.            [97a] [This is not a valid objection.] Fat is different because it permeates [all the meat]. But is it prohibited [to roast a kid with its] fat? For lo, said Rabbah bar bar Hannah, “An incident occurred in the presence of R. Yohanan in the synagogue at Ma`on. There was a kid that was roasted with its own fat. And they went and asked R. Yohanan [concerning its status as to the law]. And he said, `One may peel trim off meat and eat it until he reaches its fat.'”

D.            This one [was an exceptional case because] it was lean [and therefore did not permeate the meat. Therefore no proof can be adduced from this incident.]

Talmud Bavli Hullin 96a-b - translation by Tzvee


E.            Said Raba, “At first I thought that [with regard to the legal status of an object] a sign is preferable to recognition. Because we return a lost object [to its owner] based on [his knowledge of] a sign. [96a] But we do not return it to him if he just recognizes it [without producing a sign]. Now that I have heard these traditions [i.e., B-D] I reason that recognition is preferable [to a sign]. For if you did not maintain this position how would a blind person be permitted to [have relations with] his wife? And how would any person be permitted to [have relations with] his wife at night? It is only by virtue of the recognition of her voice. Here too, recognition [has validity for a legal claim].

9/29/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 95a-b - translation by Tzvee

II.2
A.            A certain butcher said to his fellow [with whom he was feuding], [95a] “If you had appeased me I would have provided you with meat from the fatted ox I processed yesterday.” He said to him, “I ate from its choicest cut.” He said to him, “Where did you get it?” He said to him, “So-and-so the idolater bought it and provided it to me.” He said to him, “I processed two and that one was terefah.”

B.            Said Rabbi, “On account of this one idiot who acted improperly should we prohibit all of the stalls [of the gentiles from selling meat]?”

9/28/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 94a-b - translation by Tzvee

B.            Rather, [maintain that we deal with] a place where they publicize it [that an animal was found to be terefah]. [If so] even a whole one they should not send to him [i.e., a gentile]. For he may cut it up and sell it [to a Jew].

C.            If you prefer [we can explain the case] in a place where they do publicize it. And if you prefer [we can explain the case] in a place where they do not announce.

D.            If you prefer [we can explain the case] in a place where they do publicize it — cuts [of meat] made by a gentile are easy to recognize [so you could send a whole thigh to a gentile who will cut it up to sell it].

9/27/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 93a-b - translation by Tzvee

Said Abayye, “In accord with the view of R. Assi it makes more sense.” For said R. Abba, said R. Judah, said Samuel, [93a] “The fat that is covered by meat is permitted.” It makes sense to conclude that [fat which is] `on them at the loins' the Torah said [is prohibited]. But not the fat that is in the loins.” [The verse is: “And the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the appendage of the liver which he shall take away with the kidneys” (Lev. 3:4).]

D.            Here too [it makes sense to conclude that the fat] that is on the kidneys the Torah said [is prohibited]. But not the fat that is in the kidneys.

9/26/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 92a-b - translation by Tzvee

But is there not [another praise where they invoke God's name after reciting two words]? [92a] “[And the spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me the sound of loud rumbling;] blessed be the glory of the Lord” (Ezek. 3:12) [This is not a valid objection.] The [higher-ranking] ophanim were the ones who sang that praise.

H.           And if you prefer another possibility: [The angels did recite this refrain. But] once permission was granted [to invoke God's name in the first refrain after three words], it was granted [in the subsequent refrains to invoke it after two words].

9/25/11

Book Recommendation: Avodah - Ancient Poems for Yom Kippur edited by Michael D. Swartz and Joseph Yahalom

The dead tree edition of the book is $65.95 at Amazon but... the Kindle edition is $9.99.

The rich and informative introduction is worth the price of the book. And if you are teaching a course on the "Liturgy of the Days of Awe," then you must have this book.

In the Kindle edition the Hebrew follows the English, they do not line up side-by-side, and that may account for the discount. Just guessing. Here is the publisher's description.
Avodah: Ancient Poems for Yom Kippur is the first major translation of one of the most important genres of the lost literature of the ancient synagogue. Known as the Avodah piyyutim, this liturgical poetry was composed by the synagogue poets of fifth- to ninth-century Palestine and sung in the synagogues on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Although it was suppressed by generations of Rabbis, its ornamental beauty and deep exploration of sacred stories ensured its popularity for centuries.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 91a-b - translation by Tzvee

[91a] R. Ashi said, “The rule is required to cover the fat [of the sinew of the hip]. For it has been taught on Tannaite authority: the fat is permitted, but the Israelites are holy and treat it as prohibited.”

H.           Rabina said, “The rule is required to cover [the outer sinew of the hip], in accord with what R. Judah said Samuel said, for said R. Judah said Samuel, `As to the two sinews, the inner one, near the bone, is prohibited, and one is liable on account of eating it to a flogging; the outer one, near the meat, is prohibited, but one is not liable on its account.'”

9/23/11

Sarna in the Forward: Is the University of Nebraska Press Jewish?

Jonathan Sarna wrote in the Forward a wry and detailed analysis of the demise of the Jewish Publication Society. It's something between an obituary for the company and a wedding announcement for its merger with the University of Nebraska Press. Since Sarna declares that no, the University of Nebraska Press is not Jewish,  the metaphor may be that we ought to sit shiva over the intermarriage -- over JPS' union with the U of N. In the article, Sarna writes:
More than it succeeded, however, JPS stumbled. Faced with a raft of competitors eager to publish Jewish books — including mainstream presses, university presses and other Jewish presses — it had trouble finding its way.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 89a-b - translation by Tzvee

Said Raba, “As a reward for what Abraham our forefather said, [89a] `That I would not take a thread or a sandal-thong or anything that is yours, lest you should say, I have make Abram rich' (Gen. 14:23), his descendants merited two commandments, the thread of blue [of the fringes on a garment] and the thong of the tefillin.”

Talmud Bavli Hullin 90a-b - translation by Tzvee

[90a] It then seems [logical to conclude] that the prohibition of the animal as a Holy Thing precedes [the other prohibition]. And even though the prohibition of the animal as a Holy Thing precedes [the other], the prohibition of the sinew comes along and applies to it.

L.            [But we have a principle that a prohibition cannot apply on top of another prohibition. However here the second prohibition is more inclusive and hence can apply in addition to the first.] For this prohibition [of the sinew] does apply [also] to the descendants of Noah.

9/22/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 88a-b - translation by Tzvee

What is meant by minor, and what is meant by major? Is it not the case that minor [means] a dead creeping thing and a zab, and that major [means] a corpse? No. Minor [means] a dead creeping thing, and major [means] a zab. [And liquid from a corpse is not included in the rule.]

E.            What is the difference with regard to the law between the zab for whom the rabbis issued a decree [regarding the liquids that issue from him], and a corpse for which the rabbis did not issue a decree? For a zab, because people do not avoid contact with him, the rabbis issued a decree. For a corpse, because people do avoid contact with it, the rabbis did not issue a decree.

9/20/11

Are they Jewish? Apple in France De-Apps “Juif ou pas Juif?”

From JWeekly via Theophrastus:
Cupertino-based Apple Inc. has removed a mobile app called “Jew or Not Jew?” from its online App Store in France.

The app let users consult a database of celebrities and public figures to determine if they are Jewish or not. Its removal follows a complaint from a French anti-racism group that threatened to sue the iPhone and iPad maker.
Yes, the app is still available in the US for $1.99, but it gets poor reviews.

Wishlist: (1) Camera integration for this app. Take a picture of someone and it determines if they are Jewish. Hmm. How would they do that? (2) New app - Kosher or Treif? Scan the UPC code of a product and it looks up whether the product is kosher. Or take a picture of a food and it looks up if it is kosher, or it texts to a rabbi to check, and texts you back with the answer.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 86a-b - translation by Tzvee and 87a-b

[86a] [The reason he told him to render it terefah is] he stated matters in the most efficient way. It was not efficient for him to say, “Go and stab it,” for that is not an act of slaughtering at all. But [in telling him], “Go and render it terefah,” it might have made sense to maintain that an improper act of slaughter is a valid act of slaughter and it is necessary to cover the blood. It makes the novel point [that it is not necessary] in accord with R. Hiyya bar Abba.

F.             And the authority who holds the view [Rabin] that he told him, “Go and stab it,” why did he not tell him, “Go and render it terefah?” And if you wish to maintain that it is because he holds the view that and improper act of slaughter is a valid act of slaughter, but lo, said R. Hiyya bar Abba, said R. Yohanan, “Rabbi concurred with the words [of R. Meir regarding the prohibition against slaughtering it and its offspring on the same day. And he repeated it here attributing it to the sages. And he concurred with the words] of R. Simeon regarding the obligation to cover the blood. And he repeated it here, attributing it to the sages” [I.1 A, above]. [Accordingly, this cannot be the explanation.]

9/19/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 85a-b - translation by Tzvee

[85a] Rather [the case must be] where there is a doubt whether [the person who blows the shofar] is a man of a woman. And R. Yose is consistent with his view elsewhere. For he said that a person who is certainly a woman also may sound the shofar. [Accordingly there is not question about this case of doubt while the question remains about the law in a case of doubt for a koy.]

L.            For it was taught on Tannaite authority: The sons of Israel may lay their hands [on the sacrifice]. But the daughters of Israel may not lay their hands. [The verse is: “He shall lay his hand upon the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him” (Lev. 1:4).] R. Yose and R. Simeon say, “Women are permitted to lay their hands [on the sacrifice].” [And for Yose the principle may be extended to instruct us that women may sound the shofar.]

9/18/11

Golan v. Holder, Copyright and the Soncino Talmud

Golan v. Holder is now before the Supreme Court and will be heard in October. It addresses the following issues:
Section 514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act of 1994 granted copyright protection to millions of works that the Copyright Act had placed in the public domain of the United States, where they had remained for years as the common property of all Americans and free to use without restriction. The questions presented here are:
1. Does the Copyright Clause of the United States Constitution prohibit Congress from taking works out of the public domain?
2. Does Section 514 violate the First Amendment of the United States Constitution?
There are two sides to this case in our Talmudic view. Copyright must be enforced for commerce in published works to be carried out in any meaningful manner. However a major concern of this case is those works that were in the public domain by virtue of legalities pre-1994, which now would be wrested from the public domain by the URAA 1994.

That universe of publications does not include the Soncino translation of the Talmud, published  between 1935 and 1948 in London. That set has long been in the public domain due to the gracious wishes of the publisher and authors to make their work universally available as  resource for the Jewish people. No matter what the decision in Golan v. Holder, the public domain status of the Soncino Talmud will not change.

We believe the Supreme Court's logic for interpreting the law of public domain publications will be as follows. What was in the PD before 1994 should remain there. Going forward from 1994, the URAA may govern copyright for publications issued after that date. But how it will govern the materials after 1994 in the PD, that is another more complex question.

The Center for Internet and Society (CIS) at Stanford Law School has several postings on this matter.

Koren Sacks Rosh Hashanah Machzor: 1000 beautiful pages for $22

No doubt the new Koren Sacks Rosh Hashanah Machzor is a deal for us Jews in the pews - 1000 beautiful pages for $22.

The typesetting by Koren Israel is immaculate. No printer we know of surpasses the aesthetics of the Koren Hebrew prayerbooks.

The theology of Rabbi Sacks is without peer. No interpreter we know of surpasses his ability to portray the graces and meanings of Jewish religious ideas.

Yet, we have two issues with the new book.

Can a Jew Pray Directly to the Divine Attribute of Compassion?

Can a Jew pray directly to the Divine Attribute of Compassion? Yes, in just one prayer each year.

On Yom Kippur in Neilah, in the final series of the prayers of compassion that we call the selihot, we utter the catalogue of God’s thirteen mainly emotional attributes over and over again, the familiar:

“Lord, Lord, God, Compassionate, with loving kindness, patient, with kindness and truth; keeper of mercy for thousands, forgiver of iniquity, transgression and sin; clearing us. Forgive our iniquity and sin and accept us.” (cf. Exodus 34:6-7)


Within this sequence of repeated meditations, the tenth century Italian payetan Rabbi Amitai ben Shepatiah presents in his prayer a direct appeal to the divine attribute of compassion to intercede for us:
Attribute of compassion, pour upon us
In the presence of your creator, cast our supplications
For the sake of your people, request compassion
For every heart has pain and every mind is ill
(Goldschmidt, YK, p. 778)

Talmud Bavli Hullin 84a-b - translation by Tzvee

[84a] But why not let him redeem it and then cover the blood [since the act of slaughter would then be valid]? [You cannot do this because] you need to assess and appraise [the value of the animal by bringing it to a priest before you redeem it]. And in accord with whose view is this? If you say that it is in accord with the view of R. Meir who said that all cases [of Holy Things] fall under the rule of having to be assessed and appraised, lo he said, “An act of slaughter that is improper, is a valid act of slaughter.” [He must cover the blood in any case.]

I.              And if it is in accord with the view of R. Simeon who said [cf. b. 80a], “An act of slaughter that is improper, is not a valid act of slaughter,” lo, he said that all cases do not fall under the rule of having to be assessed and appraised.

9/16/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 83a-b - translation by Tzvee

As it was taught on Tannaite authority: [The verse says:] “And you shall let none of it remain until the morning, anything that remains until the morning you shall burn” (Exod. 12:10). [83a] “The verse comes to connect a commandment to a prohibition to tell us that they do not incur stripes for violating it [i.e., for letting it remain past the appointed time],” the words of R. Judah. R. Jacob says, “This is not the reason [that they do not incur stripes for violating it]. But it is because [violating] the prohibition [of leaving over the sacrifice] does not require an overt act. And [we have a principle that for violating] any prohibition that does not require an overt act, they do not incur stripes.”

Talmud Bavli Hullin 82a-b - translation by Tzvee

[82a] And said R. Simeon b. Laqish, “R. Simeon used to say that a cow could be redeemed even when it was laying upon the pile of wood [after it was already slaughtered. Therefore the act is valid. Cf. M. Parah 3:9].”

C.            Said R. Shaman bar Abba, said R. Yohanan, “The cow of purification is not supposed to be in our Mishnah.”

II.2
A.            And is the [slaughter of] a heifer whose neck is to be broken [M. 5:3 C] an act of slaughter that is invalid? But lo, it was taught in the Mishnah on Tannaite authority: [If] the murderer was found before the neck of the heifer was broken, it [simply] goes forth and pastures in the herd [M. Sotah 9:7 A]. [If it is then slaughtered, it is valid.]

9/15/11

Is Japanese Ironman Robot Evolta Jewish?

We thought at first that we had evidence that no, Japanese Ironman robot Evolta is not a Jew. News stories report that the 20 inch robot will compete in the Hawaii Ironman in October.

And we know that the Ironman race in Kona Hawaii is going to take place on Yom Kippur this year, October 8. We talmudically concluded that Evolta is probably not a Jew.

Note that Jewish ironman athletes are upset by this timing of the Kona race. But in fact, there are not a lot of (religious) Jews who qualify for the difficult event.

We personally completed one real leg of the ironman event. Last January (2011) when we were in Kona, we swam out into the ocean from the Kona pier and back on the 2.4 mile open water ironman swimming course. We swam with other swimmers who come regularly to work out at the site. We did not try "yet" to complete the other two legs, the 112 mile bike route or the 26 mile marathon run. See the map.

It turns out that Evolta will complete the ironman course over a span of several days in October, but not on Yom Kippur. Accordingly, we cannot use this information to judge whether the robot is Jewish.



Evolta is a cute little fellow. Actually it appears that he is a team of three robots, each one designed for another part of the ironman event, as the picture shows. The Daily Mail explains, citing the inventor:
Of the three bodies, which include one mounted on a tiny bicycle and another in a round hoop with a supporting rear wheel, the 51-cm (20 inch) high swimming robot -- mounted on a curved, fin-like blade with its arms stretched out -- presented special challenges.

'I had to think of the ways to make it waterproof and protect it from rust, as much as possible,' Takahashi said.
We point out that many or most Jews will be in another grueling ironman event on Yom Kippur, October 8, this year. The "pentathlon" of the five synagogue services recited by Jews while fasting in a 24 hour span challenges even the best conditioned spiritual athlete.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 81a-b - translation by Tzvee

R. Zira said, “Leave out [of our discussion] the prohibition of [offering a sacrifice] at the wrong time. For Scripture [81a] has linked that [prohibition] to a positive commandment.” [That puts it into a different category of prohibition.]

F.             What is the basis for this assertion? For Scripture stated, “[When a bull or sheep or goat is born, it shall remain seven days with its mother]; and from the eighth day on it shall be acceptable [as an offering by fire to the Lord]” (Lev. 22:27). “From the eighth day on” — yes [it is acceptable]. From before this time — no [it is not acceptable]. [That makes this into] a prohibition that derives from a positive commandment, that is deemed itself to be a positive commandment.

9/14/11

Nebraska Regents purchase Jewish book publisher JPS

This makes no sense to us.

The University of Nebraska buys up the Jewish Publication Society?

Why didn't it get bought by Hebrew Union College or the Jewish Theological Seminary or Yeshiva University or the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College or New York University or Harvard or Yale or Penn or Magnes Press of Hebrew University?

A great Jewish book publisher goes under and gets buried in Nebraska? The Cornhuskers? The birthplace of Kool-Aid. Home to the world's largest ball of stamps and Carhenge. Location of the Museum of the Fur Trade?

The Journal Star reports:
The University of Nebraska Board of Regents approved an agreement Friday allowing the NU Press to buy the book inventory of a 123-year-old Jewish publisher in Philadelphia.

The press plans to buy nearly 250 book titles, including the most widely read version of the Jewish Bible, from the Jewish Publication Society. Several regents expressed concern about whether the purchase would be profitable for NU Press and requested future updates.

The $610,000 purchase means the press will publish, market and distribute existing and new books by the Jewish society.

The society's annual revenue is between $1 million and $1.5 million, and it sells more than 50,000 copies of the Bible each year, representing nearly half of its book sales, according to NU Press Director Donna Shear.
But wait, the story on the JPS site is a bit different in its details.
JPS will continue its 120-year-old mission as an independent, not-for-profit publisher of Jewish books of enduring worth, including the Jewish Bible (TANAKH). The Society will concentrate exclusively on content production of such manuscripts....

JPS Director Rabbi Barry Schwartz will continue to acquire new JPS titles, while the University of Nebraska Press will handle production of those titles, including design, editing, typesetting, and printing and sales and marketing. The University of Nebraska Press will also handle warehousing and distribution of the JPS backlist.
So they are collaborating with Nebraska. Oh, now that makes sense.

9/13/11

Our Neighbor Shmuley Boteach Makes the New Yorker Talk of the Town

"There are people out there from The New Yorker magazine. My God! What would they think?" is one of the best known classic lines, spoken at a party, from Woody Allen's 1977 film Annie Hall.

Our neighbor Shmuley Boteach might have said something like that last week as he was interviewed for the New Yorker, Talk of the Town.
New Jersey Postcard
Neighbors
by Andrew Marantz
One recent afternoon, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach stepped onto the patio of his neo-Gothic stone mansion in Englewood, New Jersey, where he lives with his wife and nine children. He carried an iPad and wore a white oxford shirt, navy chinos, a kipa, tzitzit, and pleather loafers with no socks. Boteach, who is billed on his Web site as “America’s rabbi” and on his Twitter feed as “the LoveProphet,” crossed the yard to a carriage house, which contains his office, as well as a closet full of remaindered copies of his nearly twenty books (“Kosher Sex”; “Kosher Adultery”). On top of the stacks are a few boxes of Shmuley bobblehead dolls left over from his days as host of a TLC reality show called “Shalom in the Home.”...more...

Talmud Bavli Hullin 79a-b - translation by Tzvee and 80a-b

[79a] And in accord with the view of Hananiah [in L] it is written [both] “it” [masculine pronoun] that implies it is a male. And it is written “its young” [that implies] one [animal] whose young trails after it [i.e., the mother] a female. Therefore the rule applies to both males and females.

S.             Said R. Huna bar Hiyya, said Samuel, “The law follows in accord with the view of Hananiah.” And Samuel is consistent with his view elsewhere. For it was taught in the Mishnah on Tannaite authority: R. Judah says, “All offspring of a [female] horse, even though their sires are asses, are permitted [to mate] with one another... But the offspring of a [female] ass are prohibited [to mate] with the offspring of a [female] horse” [M. Kil. 8:4 C, E].

9/12/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 78a-b - translation by Tzvee

Bavli Hullin Chapter Five Folios 78A-83B
                                                                     5:1
                A.            [The prohibition against slaughtering on the same day] it and its young” (Lev. 22:28) applies (1) in the Land and outside the Land, (2) in the time of the Temple and not in the time of the Temple, (3) in the case of unconsecrated beasts and in the case of consecrated beasts.
                B.            How so?
I              C.            He who slaughters it and its offspring, (1) which are unconsecrated, (2) outside [the Temple courtyard] — both of them are valid. And [for slaughtering] the second he incurs forty stripes.
II             D.           [He who slaughters] (1) Holy Things (2) outside — [for] the first is he liable to extirpation, and both of them are invalid, and [for] both of them he incurs forty stripes.
III           E.            [He who slaughters] (1) unconsecrated beasts (2) inside [the Temple courtyard] — both of them are invalid, and [for] the second he incurs forty stripes.
IV           F.             [He who slaughters] (1) Holy Things (2) inside — the first is valid, and he is exempt [from any punishment], and [for] the second he incurs forty stripes, and it is invalid.

9/11/11

NY Post: Kaja Whitehouse Catches us up with Ezra Merkin

We were wondering the other day what ever happened to the Madoff ponzi scheme feeder, Ezra Merkin. We thought, perhaps he now is out helping those who lost all of their money in that awful scheme. Perhaps Merkin has sold all his personal property and is making amends for his bad investing on behalf of so many people. Perhaps he is engaged in good deeds to try to mend the crooked world that he helped to create. Perhaps that is how he has decided to unfold act 2 of his life.

Well, Kaja Whitehouse caught up with some of the Merkin news and it looks like J. Ezra is having none of that goody-goody benevolence and has no intention to repent or atone or make good on any damages or debts. Check out the details in the brutal story of Merkin's scorched earth litigation and intransigence.
Investors stew as Madoff middleman lives the good life
By KAJA WHITEHOUSE
Noel Wiederhorn, a 71-year-old pediatrician from Wyckoff, NJ, thought his nightmare was over in May 2010, when an arbitration panel awarded him $1.75 million -- all of the nest egg he lost to Ezra Merkin, the New York financier who funneled over $2 billion to convicted Ponzi king Bernie Madoff.
But the victory was short-lived as it became clear that Merkin, who is estimated to have earned half a billion dollars by investing his clients' money with Madoff, wasn't going to honor the award within 30 days as ordered by the arbitration panel.
Instead, Merkin -- who required investors in his $5 billion hedge fund firm, Gabriel Capital Group, to resolve disputes in arbitration -- has been stalling the award with a string of legal actions.
"He's certainly using a scorched-earth litigation tactic," David Bamberger, Wiederhorn's attorney, said of Merkin.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 77a-b - translation by Tzvee

And furthermore [we have a principle that] the Torah had mercy on the money of an Israelite [b. 49b].

I.              Said R. Pappa to Rabbah [=Raba], “[We must take into account the view of] R. Simeon b. Laqish [who disputes the view of R. Yohanan in b. Pes. 84a and holds that the sinews are not deemed to be flesh]. And [we are dealing here with] a prohibition [of an animal that is terefah] that is based on the authority of the Torah. And you say, `What should we suspect?'”

J.              He [Raba] was silent. And why was he silent? Lo, did Raba not say that the law follows in accord with the view of R. Simeon b. Laqish in these three [specified cases, not including ours, per b. Yeb. 36a]?

K.            This one is different because R. Yohanan retracted his view regarding the matter in deference to the view of R. Simeon b. Laqish. For he said to him, “Stop annoying me. I teach this as a personal view.”

9/9/11

NYTimes: Complaining Clergy @ the 9/11 Ceremony = Chutzpah

The Times reports that clergy are complaining that they are not being included in the 9/11 ceremonies.

We think it's just wrong for rabbis, ministers and priests to seek publicity and self-aggrandizement on the backs of the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Now those clergy might argue with us that they indeed are merely humble servants of God and of those victims and their families. They might proffer that they are just stepping up to serve the needs of the occasion. After all, they might assert, clergy must be there at the 9/11 memorials to show the participants how to pray. And religious leaders must be there at the 9/11 commemorations to make sure that everyone grieves in the proper manner.

We don't think that line of argument holds any credence. The public NYC 9/11 ritual makes no call for clergy intervention, leadership or participation. Here is how the NYC 9/11 events have been held in the past according to the Times report:

Talmud Bavli Hullin 76a-b - translation by Tzvee

4:6 [76a]
                A.            A beast, the [hind] legs of which are cut off below the knee, is valid.
                B.            [If they are cut off] above the knee, it is invalid.
                C.            And so [if] the juncture of the thigh sinews was removed [it is invalid].
                D.           [If] the bone broke [but was not cut off], if most of the meat remains, slaughtering it renders it [the broken leg] clean.
                E.            And if not, slaughtering it does not render it clean [and the broken leg cannot be eaten, but the rest of the beast is valid].

I.1
A.            Said R. Judah, said Rab, said R. Hiyya, “Below, [means] below the knee. Above, [means] above the knee. About which [part of the leg beneath the] joint did they speak? The [part of the leg beneath the] joint that is sold with the head [as waste].” [See Cashdan, p. 419, for a discussion of the anatomical reference.]

Talmud Bavli Hullin 75a-b - translation by Tzvee

[75a] [We can avoid this objection by stipulating that the case here is one of] an act of slaughter that is dry [i.e., no blood spurts on the animal] and not in accord with the view of R. Simeon [M. 2:5 E].

G.            Who is the Tannaite authority behind the rule [in E]: If it [the live birth from a slaughtered mother] passed through a river, it became susceptible to uncleanness [by virtue of the water]. If it went to a cemetery, it became unclean [by virtue of passing over graves]? Said R. Yohanan, “It is R. Yosé the Galilean.”

H.           As it was taught on Tannaite authority: R. Simeon b. Eleazar says in the name of R. Yosé the Galilean, “It is susceptible to uncleanness as food and imparts uncleanness as food and requires preparation [to be susceptible to uncleanness].” Rabbi (the Talmud's version: sages) says, “It does not impart uncleanness as food, because it is alive, and that which is alive does not impart the uncleanness as food” [T. 4:6 B-C].

9/8/11

Did Rick Perry Violate one of the Ten Commandments in the Presidential Candidates Debate?

What do we do when a front runner candidate for presidential nomination speaks outright lies?

Rick Perry repeated last night in public on national TV what he said in his 2010 book, namely that the Social Security program of the US is a "ponzi scheme."

That is an absolute falsehood. Social security is an essential legal and long established retirement program that millions of Americans have relied upon for several generations.

A "ponzi scheme" is an illegal criminal activity that takes people's money under utterly false pretenses.

Had Perry sworn that Social Security program is a "Ponzi scheme" he would have violated one of the Ten Commandments.

A vain oath is a statement which denies self-evident facts. When the statement invokes the name of God as a sworn oath, it is a violation of the third commandment -- Exodus 20:7 and Deuteronomy 5:11 -- You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Mishnah Shabuot 3:8 says: "What is the definition of a vain oath? If one has taken an oath to differ from what is well known to people. If he said (1) concerning a pillar of stone that it is made of gold, (2) concerning a man that he is a woman, (3) concerning a woman that she is a man..."

Obviously if a person took an oath that Social Security is a "Ponzi scheme" -- that would be a vain oath and a violation of the third commandment.

CBS news reported that influential republicans Karl Rove and Dick Cheney criticized Perry for his statement:
Perry called the popular federal program a Ponzi scheme in his 2010 book "Fed Up!" and his views have come under scrutiny since he entered the presidential race last month. Most recently, Republican strategist Karl Rove said Perry's take on Social Security will prove "toxic" in the 2012 election. Former Vice President Dick Cheney also said recently it was inaccurate to call the program a Ponzi scheme.
In fact, Perry was not under oath during the debate. So technically and Talmudically, no, he did not violate the biblical prohibition against a vain oath.

But yes, technically and Talmudically he did speak a big brazen utter lie.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 74a-b - translation by Tzvee

R. Joseph sat before R. Huna and he say and stated, “Said R. Judah, said Rab, `If one ate such, he is subject to the punishment of flogging.' Said to him one of the rabbis, `Pay no attention to him. This is what R. Yitzhak bar Samuel bar Marta said in the name of Rab: If one ate such, he is not subject to the punishment of flogging.'”

D.            Said to him R. Huna, “On which authority shall we rely?” R. Joseph [angrily] turned away. He [Joseph] said to him, “What is the question? I stated matters regarding an animal that dies that [the dangling flesh] is considered to be detached. They stated matters regarding the act of slaughter, [that dangling flesh] is not considered to be detached.” [See above IV.2 A.]

9/7/11

Is Prayer at a Football Game Kosher?

It’s fall and it’s football season. Once again we are confronted with the problem of what to do about religious football fans who want to pray at the stadium right before the game begins. I believe that prayer at a football game does not elevate the sport. It causes cultural and spiritual confusion. And it cheapens the religion.

So no, prayer at a football game is not kosher. Here is why.

Some well-meaning people think that religion is much like a team sport. They come out in public events to root for their team and to sing a loud cheer – and their prayers. They believe that makes them true fans, and good religious people. They have faith that rooting loudly in prayer at a real sporting event unites them with other true fans, gives them more of a common bond, a greater sense of community, religious and sporting.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 73a-b - translation by Tzvee

In accord with whose view is this? In accord with the view of R. Meir. As it was taught on Tannaite authority in the Mishnah: All handles of utensils that are [too] long and that one is going to cut off — one immerses them up to the place of their proper measure [the Talmud here gives these attributions: — the words of R. Meir. And sages say... ]. R. Judah says, “[They are not clean] until one will immerse the whole object” [M. Miq. 10:5 A-C].

F.             You could even maintain [that the rule of our Mishnah accords with] the view of the rabbis [i.e., Judah] that regarding the connections in [a bulk of solid] foods, we treat it as if it was a conglomeration of separate portions that touch one another.

9/6/11

NYTimes: Blogger Richard Silverstein received classified US intelligence files on Israel

Blogger Richard Silverstein of the Tikkun Olam blog made the NY Times page one today, for his role in a USA-on-Israel espionage case in 2009.
Leak Offers Look at Efforts by U.S. to Spy on Israel
By SCOTT SHANE
New details have emerged in the case of an F.B.I. translator who was sentenced last year to 20 months in prison for leaking classified information to a blogger.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 72a-b - translation by Tzvee

[72a] But lo, [consider by way of contradiction to this the case of] a foetus and midwife that resembles [in its legal implications] the case of two rings. [The woman whose foetus died in her womb, and [that foetus] the midwife put in her hand and touched — the midwife is unclean with a seven-day uncleanness, and the woman is clean until the foetus will emerge [M. 4:3 F-G].] And yet the foetus does render unclean the midwife!

W.           Rabbah [would have] said, “The case of the foetus is different since it is destined to come forth.” [The rule concerning contained uncleanness does not apply to it.]

X.            Said Raba, “[You say that] the foetus is destined to come forth. Is not the ring also destined to come forth [from the animal through the natural process of elimination]?”

9/5/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 71a-b - translation by Tzvee

What is the source for the assertion that wild animals are included in the rule of beasts? As it is written, “These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat the hart, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope, and the mountain-sheep. Every animal that parts the hoof and has the hoof cloven in two, and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat” (Deut. 14:4-6). Lo, what is the case? The wild animal is included in the rule of the beast.

E.            What is the source of the assertion that beasts are included in the rule of wild animals? As it is written, “Say to the people of Israel, These are the living things which you may eat among all the [wild] beasts that are on the earth. Whatever parts the hoof and is cloven-footed and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat” (Lev. 11:2-3). Lo, what is the case? The beast is included in the rule of the wild animal.

9/4/11

Yitz Reviews the iMishna App for iPhone


Yitz reviews the iMishna app for iPhone from Crowded Road developers.

They tell us at the publisher:

ENGLISH TRANSLATION
iMishna is an amazing Torah application that weaves a comprehensive English translation. Thousands of hyperlinked footnotes have also been included for more detailed explanation. Most Masechtas have this feature and we will continue to add more with future free updates.
INTEGRATED COMMENTARIES
The commentaries of both Bartenura and Tosfos Yom Tov have been included in iMishna, using hyperlinks from the main text for easy, 1-touch access.
AUDIO LECTURES
iMishna features audio lectures for every Mishna that can be added or removed from the built-in Download Manager. Lectures are given by Rabbi Rabbi Chaim Brown.
MISHNA YOMI
There is a built-in Mishna Yomi calculator that allows you to see the day's Mishna with just one touch. Follow the cycle and complete every Mishna in just 6 years. iMishna makes the process portable and easy.
KEYWORD SEARCH
Use the built-in Hebrew keyboard to search for anything within the 1000s of pages of iMishna. The results will be highlighted for easy access.

iMishna Review by Yitz
Overall
Nice overall and easy to use. The search function works great.

Times Inside the List by Jennifer Schuessler Covers New Relgion Bestseller Books

We are down on the Times for technical reasons today. Our iPad Times app simply does not work. And navigation within the web site of the Times online is abysmal. So if we want to read through several weeks of Jennifer SCHUESSLER's column that summarizes news about best-selling books, we have to jump back and forth and through some hoops. Add to that the fact that today 9/4 the column displays the entry for 9/11, a week early, and that is supposed to be a good thing.

We did find the column for 9/4 and reproduce it below because is discusses several books about religion that have hit the charts. We still cannot fathom why Todd Burpo's book is measured on the non-fiction list - a book about a four year old who meets Jesus in heaven. And so we take a deep breath and wonder that all religion writing is highly imaginative yet cultural norms utterly prevent us from ranking it together with fiction. Such a situation. Here is Jennifer's column for today:

Review a New Book on Synagogue Prayers for the New Year

Attention bloggers and e-zines: To request a complimentary review copy today for the print or Kindle edition, send us your address in an email.
 
“Liturgy is not dry theology,” Tzvee Zahavy explains. In his new book, “God’s Favorite Prayers,” he shows how the traditional Jewish services are filled with “colorful pictures, evoking sentiments and passions and full of exhilaration.”
To illuminate the meanings of prayers, Zahavy tells about his experiences with Rav J. B. Soloveitchik, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, Rabbi Meir Kahane, Cantor Louis Danto and other inspiring Jewish figures.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 70a-b - translation by Tzvee

[70a] And if it was stated only [the former, we might argue that] in this one Rabbah stated matters. But in this [other] one it makes sense to say that he agrees with R. Huna. It is necessary to state both.

I.2
A.            It was taught in the Mishnah on Tannaite authority: A beast producing its firstborn that is in hard labor — one cuts off the limbs [of the offspring] one by one and throws them to the dogs [M. 4:2 A-B]. Is it not the case that he cuts off and puts aside [the limbs and later throws them to the dogs]? And if you say that it is holy retroactively, it should be necessary then for him to bury them.

B.            No. In this case what are we dealing with? Where he cuts off and throws [each one to the dogs]. But where he cuts off and puts aside [the limbs], what is the rule? They must be buried [when enough of the animal comes forth and it is retroactively a firstborn].

Times Op-Ed: Eliyahu Stern Defends Shariah Law in the U.S.

Bravo to Eliyahu Stern, assistant professor of religious studies and history at Yale, who eloquently defends Shariah law in the U.S. This is a welcome and well-reasoned argument that needed to be heard from a Jewish source to counterbalance the activities of David Yerushalmi who has been crusading against Shariah law, as noted in a story in the Times, July 30, and in this blog and elsewhere months before that.

Stern concludes:
Anti-Shariah legislation fosters a hostile environment that will stymie the growth of America’s tolerant strand of Islam. The continuation of America’s pluralistic religious tradition depends on the ability to distinguish between punishing groups that support terror and blaming terrorist activities on a faith that represents roughly a quarter of the world’s population.

9/2/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 69a-b - translation by Tzvee

Come and take note: [69a] This is the general principle: Something that is part of its [the dam's] body is prohibited. Something that is not part of its body is permitted [M. 4:1 G]. What does Something that is not part of its body encompass? does it not encompass this very matter? No. It encompasses [the case of] an animal with uncloven hooves in the womb of the cow. And this is in accord with the view of R. Simeon.

E.            For even though R. Simeon said, “A foetus with uncloven hooves that is the offspring of a cow is prohibited [I.2 G],” this concern applies to an instance where it emerged to see the light of day. But as long as it remains in the womb of the mother it is permitted.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 68a-b - translation by Tzvee

Bavli Hullin Chapter Four Folios 68A-78A

                                                                     4:1
                A.            A beast that was in hard labor, and its offspring put its hoof out and withdrew it —
                B.            [when the dam is properly slaughtered], it [the offspring] is permitted to be eaten. [Not being deemed born, it is not a living beast that itself must be slaughtered before being eaten.]
                C.            [If] it put forth its head, even though it withdrew it, lo, this is [deemed] as fully born.
                D.           [If] one cuts off part of the offspring that is in its womb —
                E.            it [what is cut off] is permitted to be eaten.
                F.             [If he cut off] part of the spleen or kidneys [of the beast itself], it is prohibited to be eaten.
                G.           This is the general principle:
                (1) Something that is part of its [the dam's] body is prohibited.
                (2) Something that is not part of its body is permitted.

9/1/11

Atlantic: Can You Read on an Amazon Kindle on Shabbat?

We originally posted this 12/23/2010. The questions keep recurring so we are bringing this post back. And by the way, we published a book on Kindle, The Kindle Edition of God's Favorite Prayers.

Our Jewish calendars have always told us what time to Kindle for the Sabbath, when to "Kindle the Shabbat Candles."

Nowadays we have another kind of Kindle to know about, the Amazon book reader. And the question arises, can you Kindle on the Sabbath?

We think yes, without any qualifications, that you can Kindle on the Sabbath. The e-ink device does not create actual light. You cannot read it in the dark. And it obviously does not create any durable writing. When you turn it off it goes blank.

In halakhic terms we find no transgression, no prohibition to using the reader. In fact it's a feat of great imagination to extend Sabbath prohibitions to that invention. It involves believing there is a set of electrical apparatus that is prohibited, or defining a broad category of technology-things that all are outside the spirit of Sabbath rest.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 67a-b - translation by Tzvee

E.            Said Rabina, “This is what they stated in the West [i.e., Israel]: In every instance where you find two general rules juxtaposed to one another [67a], you may place the specifications between them and treat this as if it constituted a general rule, a specification and a general rule. [Accordingly here you have] “in the waters” that it a general rule; “in the seas or the rivers” that is a specification; “that are in the waters” that is once again a general rule. [Where you have] a general rule, a specification and a general rule [the principle we follow is that] you can only subsume under the rule what you have in the specification. What does the specification define? That you have flowing water. So all [instances where you have] flowing water. What does this subsume? [Creatures without fins and scales that are found in] gutters and trenches that are prohibited. And what does it exclude? [Creatures without fins and scales that are found in] cisterns, ditches, or caverns that are permitted.