10/31/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 127a-b - translation by Tzvee


D.            Or perhaps it is only [correct to interpret as follows]: “That creeps” — all [creatures] that reproduce, render unclean. [Creatures] that do not reproduce, do not render unclean. I will exclude from this a mouse, half of which is flesh and half dirt that does not reproduce by breeding.

E.            But it is logical [to argue that this is not the case as follows]: [The Torah] declared the weasel unclean and declared the mouse unclean. What is the case regarding the weasel? [The rule applies to] all that are called “weasel.” So too [regarding the] mouse [the rule applies to] all that are called “mouse.” I will include [on this basis] a mouse, half of which is flesh and half dirt.

10/30/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 126a-b - translation by Tzvee


S.             [126a] And it was taught regarding this: R. Yosé declares clean. To which case does this apply? If you say to the case in the latter text, the first Tanna also declares it clean. Rather it applies to what the first Tanna stated: uncleanness is in it, the house is unclean either because [he held the view that] the way of uncleanness is to exude or because [he held the view that] covered uncleanness does break forth.

T.            And what R. Yosé said to him [was as follows], “What you stated, “the way of uncleanness is to exude” [does not apply] because one can remove it in halves or burn it in its place. And what you stated, “covered uncleanness does break forth” [does not apply because in fact] covered uncleanness does not break forth.

10/28/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 125a-b - translation by Tzvee



                                                                         9:5
                A.            The marrow bone of the corpse [125a] and the marrow bone of [invalidated] consecrated animals —
                B.            he who touches them,
                C.            whether [they are] stopped up or hollowed out,
                D.            is unclean.
                E.            The marrow bone of carrion and the marrow bone of a creeping thing —
                F.            he who touches them,
                G.            [if they are] stopped up,
                H.            is clean.
                I.             [If they are] hollowed out in any amount at all —
                J.             they impart uncleanness to the one who touches them.
                K.            How do we know that also to the one who carries them [the marrow bones of carrion that they do impart uncleanness]?
                L.            Scripture states, “He who touches” and “he who carries” (Lev. 11:39, 40).
                M.           That which enters the category of touching enters the category of carrying. That which does not enter the category of touching does not enter the category of carrying.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 124a-b - translation by Tzvee


E.            R. Jeremiah objected: [As to] an oven which was made unclean — how do they clean it? One divides it in three [equal] parts and scrapes off the plastering [124a] so that it is on the ground. R. Meir says, “One does not need to scrape off the plastering, and not down to the earth. But one cuts it down [to] within four handbreadths” [M. Kel. 5:7 A-C]. But if he cuts it down [to] within four handbreadths behold it is clean! Why is this the case? Let him maintain that it is sturdy [and can be put back together]!

F.             Said to him Raba, “Consider the view of the rabbis that he scrapes off the plastering so that it is on the ground.” Rather said Raba, “Here is how you should state the matter: [As to] an oven which was made unclean — how do they clean it? All parties agree that one divides it in three [equal] parts and scrapes off the plastering so that it is on the ground.

10/27/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 123a-b - translation by Tzvee


B.            Said R. Nahman bar Yitzhak, [123a] “Aybo said this. And he stated four [things in his list] and one of them was [the amount of trampling needed for] processing.”

C.            Said R. Yosé b. R. Hanina, “They only taught this rule [that he must go four miles out of his way] if that means he would have to go forward. But if it means he would have to go backward, then they do not make him backtrack even one mile.”

D.            R. Aha bar Jacob said, “Based on this [I would infer] that he does not have to backtrack one mile. Lo, less than one mile he would have to backtrack [for the stated purposes].”

10/26/11

Times: It is OK for Women to Sit in the Back of the Brooklyn Jewish Bus

We just continue to wonder why women sit in the back of the B110 bus in Brooklyn.

If we ran the world, the women would always sit in the front.


Bus Operator Denies Discriminating Against Women
The B110 plying the streets of Brooklyn last week. 

"A bus company that transports primarily Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish passengers between Williamsburg and Borough Park in Brooklyn has denied that it discriminates against female passengers by compelling them to sit at the rear of the bus..."

New Yorker Blog: Elie Kaunfer Explains Digital Judaism



A New Yorker blog post (Screen Savers, posted by Macy Halford) has nicely surveyed the state-of-the-apps in the realm of religious practice.

In their sweep of the landscape they contacted Elie Kaunfer, who said some intelligent things:
...This is not to say that disputes about the value and use of digital texts do not arise. Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, the co-founder and executive director of Mechon Hadar, a traditional Jewish educational institute on the Upper West Side, said that arguments commonly arise in orthodox communities when congregants who are otherwise observant use their devices on the Sabbath. (There’s a term for this style of observance: “Keeping half-Shabbos.”) At Mechon Hadar’s yeshiva, where Kaunfer runs prayers three times a day during the week, he sees people use their devices to pray on: “It’s a little jarring,” he told me, “because you don’t know if they’re communing with God or checking e-mail.”

... many see seemingly negative effects of the digital era as evidence of spiritual vitality. Kaunfer, for instance, believes that the current revolution is not so very different from the one that occurred some seventeen hundred years ago, when the Mishnah (the Jewish code of law), hitherto communicated orally, was first written down. Then, he said, memory took a blow, and it has taken another one with the coming of the handheld device. But this isn’t necessarily bad: “In many ways, pulling text out of one’s pocket is truer to the way Jews experienced text in ancient times, when they pulled it out of their heads.”
Well said, and this latest revolution has just begun.

Are the Kaifeng Chinese Jews Jewish?

Yes, Michael Freund believes that the Kaifeng Chinese Jews are Jews.

The LA Times reports, "Chinese Jews feel more at home in Israel. Descendants of Persian traders in Kaifeng, China, move to Israel with the help of a religious group and finally learn Jewish rules and traditions."

Hat tip to Barak for sending us the link.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 122a-b - translation by Tzvee


C.            [122a] In accord with which authority [did Huna state his view]? If we say in accord with R. Ishmael, lo he said that the hide does not nullify them [viz., “If there were on it two half-olive's bulks, it imparts uncleanness to the one who carries it, but not to the one who touched it,” the words of R. Ishmael (M. 9:4 C)].

D.            And if in accord with R. Aqiba, this is obvious. Lo he says [explicitly] that the hide nullifies them [viz., R. Aqiba says, “Neither to the one who touches it nor to the one who carried it...” And on what account does R. Aqiba declare clean in the case of hide? Because the hide nullifies them (M. 9:4 D-H)].

10/25/11

Haaretz: Abolish the Rabbinate in Israel

The official Israeli rabbinate is in trouble, and has been for years. Now there are new calls for altogether abolishing the bureaucracy.

We have had bad experiences with the rabbinate officials as recently as May 2011. We found that the rabbinate in Jerusalem's Maaleh Adumim is seriously out of line. And in keeping with the verse in chapter one of Ecclesiastes, which we just read in the synagogue, "The crooked cannot be made straight..." -- we agree with Haaretz and with many other voices on this matter.

The editorial "Israel's rabbinate must be stripped of its powers" is further headlined, "From every vantage point - social, civil and economic - it would be better to transfer the rabbinate's powers to local authorities that would serve the people based on the community's needs," and it concludes,
...The impression may be that only the silent secular public has been suffering from this poor combination of religion and state and that only this community must resort to steps circumventing the system, such as common-law marriage and a marriage ceremony in Cyprus. But it turns out that much of the national religious community is fed up too. For lack of any other recourse, they resort to steps such as private wedding ceremonies.

Such efforts to bypass the system reflect real distress, which raises a question: If most of the population is suffering from the dictatorship of halakhic bureaucrats who provide services that the ultra-Orthodox community does not use, who outside the religious parties still needs the rabbinate?

From every vantage point - social, civil and economic - it would be better to transfer the rabbinate's powers to local authorities that would serve the people based on the community's needs. Also, the Knesset must change the law and provide civil marriage to everyone, in addition to religious marriage. Israeli society has come out, albeit very politely, against religious coercion. The government must decide what is more important to it, its alliance with the ultra-Orthodox parties or the people's welfare.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 121a-b - translation by Tzvee


M.           [121a] And after that he extends it [the limitation to the liquids, oil and wine] to orlah based on the common use of the word “fruit” [in Lev. 19:23, “When you come into the land and plant all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as forbidden; three years it shall be forbidden to you, it must not be eaten”] and in the rules for first fruits [in Deut. 26:1-2, “When you come into the land which the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance, and have taken possession of it, and live in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from your land that the Lord your God gives you, and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place which the Lord your God will choose, to make his name to dwell there”].

10/24/11

A New More Complex, Opaque and Intimidating Prayer Book

We received a new edition of the daily Jewish prayer book, The Koren Mesorat HaRav Siddur, A Hebrew/English Prayer Book with Commentary by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. We ordered it back in February for $21. It is currently shipping for $31.

And in making initial judgements about this edition and others that we have seen recently, we started to reflect as follows.

What is your preference? Intimidating, opaque and complex? Or inviting, transparent and simple?

That's easy, you say. The second group of characteristics is more appealing. Perhaps.

In the domain of religion, especially a religion that traces its most recent roots back to Europe, it sometimes is the case that the former group prevails.

Yes, some serious religious leaders believe that for their faith system to have authority and respect it must project an aura of complexity, not simplicity. To bolster the faith against challenges, they say, it is better that its beliefs and practices be opaque, rather than transparent. And to keep the followers in line, it is necessary to be intimidating, rather than inviting.

Prayer books ought by logic to be projections of the religious value systems they represent. And so it comes as no surprise that some foster the traits of complexity, opacity and intimidation by adding another overlay of such commentary and introductions to the already challenging core compositions of the daily liturgy.

There is nothing wrong with one style and right with another. It's just important that we describe what we see. Others may see something different. Others may prefer something else.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 120a-b - translation by Tzvee


J.             And there are those who teach [this dispute between Yohanan and Resh Laqish at B-C] [120a] pertaining to our Mishnah: The (1) hide, and (2) grease, and (3) sediment, and (4) flayed-off meat, and (5) bones, and (6) sinews, and (7) horns and (8) hooves join together [with the meat to which they are attached to form the requisite volume] to impart food uncleanness, but [they do] not [join together to impart] uncleanness of carrion [M. 9:1 A]. [What follows draws on the preceding and presents it in an alternative order.]

K.            Said Resh Laqish, “They taught this matter only with regard to a bone, that it may be deemed a protector. But hair is not deemed a protector.” And R. Yohanan said, “Even hair may be deemed a protector.”

10/23/11

New Yorker Roz Chast: the Blog Content Pie Chart


Is endurance swimmer Alex Meyer Jewish?



We do not know if endurance swimmer Alex Meyer is a Jew. We are looking into it.

But it's really of no consequence what his religion is to appreciate his dedication to the sport of swimming, our favorite sports activity.

The Times has a long and eloquent article about Meyer and swimming. In it Meyer tells us,
...“My philosophy is, you have to have the right screw loose to be a good endurance athlete,” he said. “You look at the best ones, they’re crazy.”

Meyer, 23, a former freestyle standout at Harvard, established himself over the summer as the top American man in open-water swimming, performing well enough at the world championships in China to secure a spot on the 2012 United States Olympic team in the men’s 10-kilometer event.

Describing the appeal of the sport, Meyer said: “There’s something beautiful about man at his absolute breaking point. It hurts and it hurts and you keep pushing. Your body says no but your mind says yes.” He added, “It’s like a feeling of euphoria...more in the Times...
...More on Meyer

Times' Joseph Berger: Is Occupy Wall Street Jewish?

Occupy Wall Street Criticized for Flashes of Anti-Semitism
The Occupy Wall Street protests have increasingly been criticized for flashes of anti-Semitism. But the protests have also, on occasion, had a distinctly Jewish flavor.

New Alice Hoffman Novel "The Dovekeepers" Panned in NYTBR

The Dovekeepers - By Alice Hoffman - Times Book Review  by SARAH FAY 
Alice Hoffman’s novel reimagines the first-century siege of Masada, through the eyes of women. Sarah Fay does not like it.

Is Paul McCartney Jewish?

The Jerusalem Post reports that Paul McCartney (no, he is not a Jew) has married his second Jewish wife.
Mazal tov Paul McCartney! The ex-Beatle married Nancy Shevell, a businesswoman and member of the tribe, in London last Sunday. McCartney's first wife Linda, who died of breast cancer in 1998, was also a New York Jew, and their daughter Stella McCartney custom-made Shevell's dress.

Haaretz: Yaakov Choueka Leads the Geniza Project

We met Yaakov Choueka some thirty years ago at Bar Ilan when he was leading the Responsa digitization project there. Haaretz reports that he is now directing the efforts to digitize the Geniza.
...Choueka already has participated in several projects of this type. One of them, the Responsa Project - the largest electronic collection of Torah literature - was the first in Israel and one of the first in the world to combine computerization and the humanities. Yet Choueka feared that digitizing the Geniza would be almost impossible, and hesitated for a long time before committing to it.

Dowd in the Times: Mormons Baptized Anne Frank

Maureen Dowd expounds on Mormon beliefs in her Times column.

She has strong points that correctly characterize Mormon beliefs and practices as odd.

One of the oddest is the posthumous baptism of peoples of other faiths. Citing Christopher Hitchens, Dowd explains,
Aside from Joseph Smith, whom Hitchens calls “a fraud and conjurer well known to the authorities in upstate New York,” the writer also wonders about the Mormon practice of amassing archives of the dead and “praying them in” as a way to “retrospectively ‘baptize’ everybody as a convert.”
Hitchens noted that they “got hold of a list of those put to death by the Nazis’ Final Solution” and “began making these massacred Jews into honorary LDS members as well.” He called it “a crass attempt at mass identity theft from the deceased.”

The Mormons even baptized Anne Frank.

It took Ernest Michel, then chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, three years to get Mormons to agree to stop proxy-baptizing Holocaust victims.

Mormons desisted in 1995 after Michel, as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported, “discovered that his own mother, father, grandmother and best childhood friend, all from Mannheim, Germany, had been posthumously baptized.”

Michel told the news agency that “I was hurt that my parents, who were killed as Jews in Auschwitz, were being listed as members of the Mormon faith.”

Krugman Calls Republicans the Party of Pollution

As reported by the Times, Paul Krugman assesses the Republican agenda on pollution.

Given the premises he outlines, we believe it is forbidden by the Torah to vote for Republicans, since the outcome would be more pollution and subsequent sicknesses leading to death.

Krugman describes part of the problem as follows:
So what is the G.O.P. jobs plan? The answer, in large part, is to allow more pollution. So what you need to know is that weakening environmental regulations would do little to create jobs and would make us both poorer and sicker.

Segregation of Jewish Women on the B110 Bus in Brooklyn

We find the segregation of Jewish women on the B110 bus in Brooklyn, reported by the Times, to be utterly unacceptable and a violation of human decency and of the precepts of the Torah.

Times: Gilad Shalit's Freedom and a Great Mitzvah

A wonderful column in the Times... It sounds like a d'var Torah that you might expect to read in a wholly Jewish newspaper. BRL-verify-7987

A Great Mitzvah Behind the Price of a Soldier's Freedom

On the Sabbath morning of Nov. 5, less than three weeks after the release of Sgt. First Class Gilad Shalit in a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas, Jews in synagogues throughout the world will read a Torah portion concerning Abraham's early journeys. The text recounts how an invading army conquered the city of Sodom, taking Abraham's nephew Lot as a captive, and the way Abraham raised an army to rescue him.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 119a-b - translation by Tzvee


[119a] How does this conform with the view of Rab? If he deems [the bone] a handle, then the first text [of C] is a problem [because it then implies there is a handle for less than an olive's bulk]. And if he deems [the bone] a protector, then the last text is a problem [because it then implies that there is no protector for less than an olive's bulk and Rab says that for more than the bulk of a pulse there is a protector].

E.            If you prefer it makes sense to deem it a protector. Or if you prefer it makes sense to deem it a handle. If you prefer it makes sense to deem it a handle and he [Rab] states his view in accord with the view of Judah b. Naqosa [that there is a protector for less than an olive's bulk]. Or if you prefer it makes sense to deem it a protector and he [Rab] states his view in accord with the view of the first Tanna [in T., i.e., there is no handle for less than an olive's bulk].

10/19/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 118a-b - translation by Tzvee


D.            [118a] You might infer that one who touches that part of the hide opposite flesh that is attached underneath would not become unclean. It comes to teach [that it], “shall be unclean.”

E.            How do we reconcile these statements? Said Raba (and some say Kadi), “There is a lacuna in the text and this is how you should teach the matter: “[He who touches] its carcass” — [means uncleanness is transferred by hide that has flesh attached but] not by hide that does not have on it an olive's bulk of flesh, [even if by counting] the hide it yields an olive's bulk.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 117a-b - translation by Tzvee

C.            For as to fat: [117a] (1) the laws of sacrilege apply to it. And (2) they are liable on its account to the laws of refuse, remnant, and uncleanness,
                D.           which is not the case with blood, for [the law forbidding] blood applies to cattle, a wild beast, and a bird, whether unclean or clean.
                F.             But [the prohibition of] fat applies only to a clean cattle alone.

I.1
A.            What is the source of these assertions [that the law of sacrilege applies to fat]? Said R. Yannai, “As scripture stated: `Just as these are taken from the ox of the sacrifice of the peace offerings, [and the priest shall burn them upon the altar of burnt offering]' (Lev. 4:10). And what [rule] did we learn from, `The ox of the sacrifice of the peace offerings'? Behold this comes to teach us a rule [about another case] and it turns out that it derives a rule from another source.”

Talmud Bavli Hullin 116a-b - translation by Tzvee

Z.            Said R. Mordecai to R. Ashi, “This is what we stated in the name of Resh Laqish, [116a] `In all instances of logical inferences derived [associatively] one case from one other, we may refute the inference based on a less severe or more severe [characteristic in one of the cases] but we may not refute them based on just any [argument]. In all instances of logical inferences derived [associatively] one case from two others, we may refute the inference based on just any [argument]. In all instances of logical inferences derived [associatively] one case from three others, if the logical inferences would continue in a circular fashion until it leads us to infer [the nature of one element] from the common elements [of all the rules], we may refute the inference based on just any [argument]. But if not, we may refute the inference based on a less severe or more severe [characteristic in one of the cases] but we may not refute them based on just any [argument].'”

Talmud Bavli Hullin 115a-b - translation by Tzvee

IV.1
A.            [A mnemonic is given.] Consider now [based on III.1 A] [115a] food prepared on the Sabbath should be prohibited [to eat]. For lo I declared it abominable to you. Scripture says [to rule this out], “[You shall keep the Sabbath,] because it is holy for you; [every one who profanes it shall be put to death; whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death]” (Exod. 31:14-15). It is holy, but the food prepared on it is not holy [i.e., prohibited].

B.            [Concerning] one who plows with an ox and an ass [yoked together] or who muzzles a cow and threshes with it, let these [products that result from the prohibited acts] be prohibited. For lo I declared it abominable to you. Let us consider this matter. What is the case with regard to the Sabbath? [Performing prohibited] preparations is a severe matter yet [the products that result] are permitted. For these [actions of plowing or threshing that are less severe], it is more logical to conclude [that the products that result are permitted].

10/18/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 114a-b - translation by Tzvee


E.            And there are those who say that with regard to cooking [fat and milk together] they all agree that he incurs the penalty of stripes. Over what then do they dispute? [Over the penalty he incurs] for eating [the fat with milk].

F.             The authority who holds that he does not incur the penalty of stripes [for eating fat and milk reasons that by eating it he has violated only one prohibition]. For lo, [we reason in accord with the principle that] one prohibition does not apply on top of another. And the authority who holds that he does incur the penalty of stripes [reasons] that for a specific purpose the Torah expressed the prohibition against eating [milk and meat] in terms of cooking. [One of the times the Torah says “You will not seethe” prohibits eating milk and meat.] [This style of expression implies that] wherever he would incur the penalty of stripes for cooking [the mixture], he incurs the penalty of stripes for eating [the mixture].

10/17/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 113a-b - translation by Tzvee

D.            [113a] But why did he not say this was [prohibited] based on the view of Samuel? For said Samuel, “[With regard to the rules of mixtures of foods] salting is equivalent to scalding and pickling is equivalent to boiling.” [IV.1 C above]. But if I based this on the view of Samuel I would have reasoned that this concern applies to blood only but not to other fluids or gravy. It comes to make the novel point here [in the verse that other fluids and gravy easily may be absorbed to render prohibited the meat that is being salted].

VII.4
A.            They posed a question: A clean fish that was salted with an unclean fish... is permitted [cf. T. Ter. 9:2 A]. Is it not the case that he was salting both of them? [Then by analogy proper meat that was salted with terefah meat should be permitted.] No. The case in question must be one where the clean one was salted and the unclean one was unsalted.

10/16/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 112a-b - translation by Tzvee

B.            But this concern applies to a radish. [112a] Because of its sharp taste it absorbs [flavor from other foods]. But [for mild foods such as] cucumbers [that were cut with a knife used for meat] he scrapes away a layer from the place where it was cut and eats it [in a milk concoction].

C.            [If they were cut with a knife used for meat] stalks of turnips are permitted [to be eaten in a milk concoction]. Stalks of beets are prohibited. If he cut together with [the beets some] turnips, it is perfectly acceptable.

10/15/11

Haaretz: Eilat Mazar calls the City of David a 'tourist gimmick'

Haaretz reported that archeologist Eilat Mazar has called the lavish City of David archaeological expeditions and park an unscientific "tourist gimmick". 

We visited the sites last spring and can testify that indeed it is a dig that is set up for public consumption and that it tends to present a heavy handed nationalist interpretation of the site. But it is way more than a "gimmick" and it is somewhat scientific, although largely undramatic.

For a really good account of how archaeology and nationalism intertwine in Israel, buy my son's book, Archaeology, Stamps and Coins of the State of Israel By Yitzhak Zahavy.

Here is the Haaretz story:
Top archaeologist decries Jerusalem dig as unscientific 'tourist gimmick'
Dr. Eilat Mazar, who worked in close cooperation with the group - which promotes the 'Judaization' of East Jerusalem - says excavations carried out in violation of accepted procedures.
By Nir Hasson

An archaeologist who worked with the Elad association in Jerusalem's City of David claims that the association and the Antiquities Authority are carrying out excavations "without any commitment to scientific archaeological work."

Dr. Eilat Mazar - a Hebrew University archaeologist who worked in close cooperation with Elad over past years, and who is considered one of the most productive researchers in Jerusalem and in the City of David area in particular - has castigated Elad for the excavation of a large subterranean pit, called "Jeremiah's Pit," at the entrance to the City of David visitors' center complex.

10/12/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 111a-b - translation by Tzvee

F.             He said to him, “Perhaps there the case refers to a liver that is prohibited [such as a liver from a terefah animal (Rashi)].” [111a] And [it is prohibited] because of the fat [from the animal that is on the liver].

G.            What then is the rule regarding the blood [that comes from the liver]?

Talmud Bavli Hullin 110a-b - translation by Tzvee

E.            And because the last text [of T. 8:9] had to teach the rule regarding the maw which one cooked [110a] in its milk, that is prohibited [I.1 L above], for even if he already [cooked it] nevertheless he may not [eat it], it taught also in the first text regarding an udder which one cooked.

III.1
A.            When R. Eleazar went up [to Israel] he found Ziri. He said to him, “Is there a Tanna here who taught Rab the rule regarding the udder?” (“[One who eats the udder] he does not transgress on that account and he is prohibited [to eat it to begin with]” [I.1 F].) They [the people of that place] pointed out R. Yitzhak bar Abdimi. He [Yitzhak] said to him [Eleazar], “I did not teach him anything about the udder. But Rab found an open valley and erected a fence around it.” [Rab enacted the rule on his own authority to counteract the lax observance of the prohibitions against mixing meat and milk.]

Talmud Bavli Hullin 109a-b - translation by Tzvee

E.            [109a] We may derive from this the conclusion that R. Judah reasons in accord with the view that if one stirred it from start to finish and if one covered it from start to finish, [all the contents are] prohibited.

F.             Why is this the case? Lo [because he stirred it up, each piece of meat absorbed so little that it was as if it had] absorbed nothing at all. It makes sense to say that he did not stir it very well and he did not cover it very well. [The milk would be absorbed in sufficient quantity in a piece of meat and that would render prohibited the rest of the meat.]

The Times on Golan v. Holder and the Public Domain

A strong and clear Times Editorial defends the idea of the public domain against the onslaught of congressional interference. We await a supreme court decision on the case in point. We concur with the Times, as stated below:
The Public Domain

A major copyright case argued at the Supreme Court last week tests Congress’s power to expand copyright protection against First Amendment interests in having older works remain in the public domain. In Golan v. Holder, free speech rights should prevail.

The lawsuit was brought by orchestra conductors, educators and others who challenged Congress’s ability to restore copyright protection to foreign works that had been in the public domain for decades. They make a convincing argument that restoration has caused them to lose free expression rights central to their professions.

In 1994, Congress restored the copyright of many important works by foreign authors — like Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” — that had entered the public domain in the United States but are still protected by copyright in their own countries. The restoration was part of a larger trade pact, the Uruguay Round Agreements Act.

The government contends that Section 514 of the pact, promotes progress through “active participation” in the global economy. But the restoration breaks with two centuries of understanding about the public domain: what enters there remains there, free to all for any kind of use. Section 514 violates the First Amendment by removing works from the public domain and curbing the public’s right to expression and it impedes growth of knowledge.

As the petitioners said in their brief, “no treaty can authorize the government to do what the Constitution otherwise prohibits.” Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. put it this way during argument: “One day I can perform Shostakovich; Congress does something, the next day I can’t. Doesn’t that present a serious First Amendment problem?”

Copyright gives writers and others the incentive to create by giving them exclusive right to their work. But Congress’s power to grant copyright is limited in time and scope so that works can move into the public domain, where they become an essential part of our culture. The government must find other ways to comply with the trade treaty without curbing free expression.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 108a-b - translation by Tzvee

B.            But according to your logic, lo that which said R. Assi said R. Yohanan, “One who has only one cloak is permitted to wash it on the intermediate days of the festival. Will they say that [108a] this is a horse of a different color? [Lit.: all the fancy cakes are prohibited (on Passover because they may become leaven) but the fancy cakes of Boethus are permitted? See b. Pes. 37a. Because he has only one cloak, may he wash it?]

C.            There [the case is different]. Lo, said Mar bar R. Ashi, “[The fact that he washes] his belt [along with his cloak] demonstrates [that this is an exceptional case and not the rule].

10/11/11

New Album from Andy Statman - Old Brooklyn



Our friend Andy Statman has a new album, Old Brooklyn, that features special guests, BÉLA FLECK RICKY SKAGGS PAUL SHAFFER BYRON BERLINE LEW SOLOFF JON SHOLLE and others. Andy makes some great music. Hat tip to Blog in Dm.

Order on Amazon, October 24.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 107a-b - translation by Tzvee


B.            Said R. Abina to the residents of [107a] the valley of Arabot, “People like you for whom water is not commonly available may wash your hands in the morning and rely on them [that this washing remains effective] the entire day.”

C.            There are those that say [the rule applies] in a time of duress, yes, but in a time of no duress, no [it does not apply]. And this is in dispute with the view of Rab. And there are those that say [the rule applies] even in a time where there is no duress as well. And that is identical to the view of Rab [A].

Talmudic Film: Seeing Yossi Cedar and Footnote at Alice Tully Hall



A. O. Scott in the Times is clever when he says about Yossi Cedar's film at the New York Film Festival, "The fantastic Israeli film “Footnote” will also show up in theaters, and if you see only one movie about Talmudic scholarship this year, make it this one. "

The gravitas and seriousness of the NYFF just added to the wonderful and bizarre experience that we had Monday night as we watched a brilliant film about Hebrew University Talmud professors, a father and son, and their relationship, explored through a drama about the award called the Israel Prize.

We will have more to say in due time about this rich and nuanced and funny and quirky film. Yes, it is quirky, just like the Talmud is quirky.

The great treat of the event was the appearance of Yossi Cedar on stage, before and after the screening. He was kind enough to answer questions. His work continues to define him as a major talent of international caliber in the film industry.

We left the theater after personally greeting the director and just walked around for an hour saying wow, what a bizarre and wonderful film. Who would ever imagine that a film could be made about Talmud professors, and then, that it would garner international recognition?

10/10/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 106a-b - translation by Tzvee

III.6
A.            When R. Dimi came [from Israel to Babylonia] he said, “[On account of not washing with] water — the first time, they fed swine's flesh [to a person. Rashi: A storekeeper would sell properly slaughtered to Jews and cook it for them and feed it to them. But if a Gentile came into his store he would feed him carrion. One time a Jew came to eat and did not wash before eating. The storekeeper thought he was a gentile and accordingly fed him swine's flesh.] [On account of not washing] the last time, a woman was taken from her husband. [Rashi: Because a man did not wash after eating, swindlers were able to steal money from his wife. When he found out, according to the story in two versions, he either killed or divorced her (cf. b. Yoma 83b).]

10/9/11

LA Times: Wilshire Blvd. Temple to Begin a Record $175-million Renovation



The Los Angeles Times reports on what may be the most expensive renovation for a Temple or Synagogue -- a $175-million renovation and redevelopment project. The work will take two years. The Times give some background on the history of the Temple beginning in 1872:
...Jewish merchants and bankers contributed toward the $1.5-million cost of the sanctuary, but movie money provided much of the synagogue's flash and dazzle.

The 100-foot-high dome was the gift of Hollywood tycoon Irving Thalberg. The dome is inscribed with the Shema Yisrael, a declaration of monotheism. (A few years ago, after a chunk of water-damaged plaster tumbled from the domed ceiling, the temple installed a white tent to catch any other bits.)

Louis B. Mayer provided the east- and west-facing stained glass windows, while Carl Laemmle donated the eight cast-bronze chandeliers designed to resemble ancient prayer spice boxes.

Most theatrical and tradition-altering of all were the Warner murals (painted on canvas affixed around the interior walls), the gift of Harry, Jack and Abe Warner in memory of their brothers Milton and Samuel. The drawings depict Jewish history from creation to the discovery of America, portrayed as a figure holding the torch of liberty.

The images of Moses, Samson, David and Elijah were painted by Hugo Ballin, head of Warner Bros.' art department. They marked the first extensive use of paintings in a synagogue since ancient times, said Stephen Sass, an attorney for HBO and president of the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California....
The Temple web site is here.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 105a-b - translation by Tzvee


C.            [105a] If you maintain that, “The House of Shammai say they must wipe [his mouth between eating meat and cheese]” [means that] he does not have to wash it. “And the House of Hillel say he must wash it out” [means that] he does not have to wipe it, then in accord with whose view is the statement of R. Zira, “Wiping the mouth can be done only with bread”? [It is in accord with only the view of] the House of Shammai.

D.            Rather it must be that, “The House of Shammai say he must wipe [his mouth between eating meat and cheese].” And he need not wash it out. And the House of Hillel say [he must wipe it] and he must wash it as well.

10/7/11

Talmud Bavli Hullin 104a-b - translation by Tzvee

I.1
A.            Lo [from the rule of Mishnah we may deduce that mixing the flesh of] fowl [with milk] is prohibited based on the authority of the Torah.

B.            In accord with whose view [is this premise]? It is not in accord with the view of R. Aqiba. For if it were in accord with the view of R. Aqiba, lo he said [explicitly], “Wild beasts and fowl are not prohibited on the authority of the Torah [to be mixed with milk] [M. 8:4 E].”

C.            Consider the [implication of the] latter text of the Mishnah: He who vows [to abstain] from flesh is permitted [to make use of] the flesh of fish and locusts [E]. Lo [this implies that one who makes such a vow] is prohibited [to eat the flesh of] fowl.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 103a-b - translation by Tzvee

F.             And they raised a contradiction: [103a] One who ate a limb from a living animal that was terefah — R. Yohanan said, “He is liable for violating two prohibitions.” R. Simeon b. Laqish said, “He is liable for violating only one prohibition.”

G.            It is consistent according to R. Yohanan and the matter is settled. But according to R. Simeon b. Laqish there is an inconsistency. Said R. Joseph, “There does not have to be an inconsistency. [You can say] this one [rule] refers to [flesh torn] from one animal. And this one refers to [flesh torn] from two animals. Where there were two animals, he is liable for violating two prohibitions. Where there is one animal, they disputed the matter.”

10/6/11

Two Great Blog Reviews of "God's Favorite Prayers"

Dr. Claude Mariottini, professor of Old Testament at the Northern Baptist Seminary, has published a marvelous review my new book on his blog, starting as follows:
My fellow blogger Tzvee Zahavy has written a fascinating book titled God’s Favorite Prayers (Teaneck, NJ: Talmudic Books, 2011). The book deals with Jewish prayers and spirituality...

Jewish Press: Review of "God's Favorite Prayers" by Dr. Naomi Cohen

In the Jewish Press, 10/7/2011, p. 58 you will find a wonderful review of my new book by Dr. Naomi G. Cohen. It begins,
God's Favorite Prayers, by Tzvee Zahavy, makes for fascinating reading. It is an intelligent, sometimes amusing, and always highly readable essay addressed first and foremost to those who know "everything" - those so familiar with the prayers that they don't really need a siddur to follow the service.

At the same time the book can also serve as an appetizer, a first introduction to the synagogue and its most significant prayers, for those from outside shul life - people who have not been inside an Orthodox synagogue since their bar mitzvah....
Professor Cohen is a noted scholar: Dr. Naomi G. Cohen taught for many years at Tel Aviv University and Haifa University, and is a senior research fellow at Haifa University. She has published extensively on Jewish liturgy and on Philo Judaeus, including Philo's Scriptures: Citations from the Prophets and Writings. She is married to Rav She'ar Yashuv Cohen, former Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Haifa.

Talmud Bavli Hullin 102a-b - translation by Tzvee


B.            Said R. Yohanan, “Both of them derived their inferences from the same verse, `Only be sure that you do not eat the blood; for the blood is the life, [102a] and you shall not eat the life with the flesh' (Deut. 12:23). R. Judah and R. Eleazar reason [in accord with the rule that they derive from the first part of the verse]: for any [animal] for which you are commanded to abstain from its blood, you are commanded to abstain from [eating] its limbs. So for these unclean [animals], since you are commanded to abstain from their blood, you are commanded to abstain from their limbs. And our rabbis reason [based on the rule they derive from the second part of the verse]: `And you shall not eat the life with the flesh' — [this means that you shall eat] just the flesh. [Thus] for any [animal] from which you are permitted to eat the flesh, you are commanded to abstain from [eating] its limbs. And for any [animal] from which you are not permitted to eat the flesh, you are not commanded to abstain from [eating] its limbs.”

10/5/11

Was Steve Jobs Jewish?

No, Steve Jobs, who passed away today, was not a Jew.

The brilliant visionary genius, who was Apple CEO until August, practiced Buddhism. He was born to Catholic and Muslim biological parents, Joanne Carole Schieble and Abdulfattah John Jandali, and was adopted and brought up by Christian parents, Paul and Clara Jobs, according to sources.

Jobs was appointed chairman of the board at Apple in August. He was 56 and battled cancer for several years.

Steve Jobs' impact on the world of technology was immeasurable. He changed the world at large for the better. He transcended all categorization. God bless his beautiful soul.

Guardian: Bob Dylan now favourite to take the Nobel prize for literature



The Guardian reports: Bob Dylan now favourite to take the Nobel prize for literature

"Odds on Dylan running away with the Nobel prize for literature tomorrow tumble from 100/1 to 5/1"

Now that would be a trip. We don't believe it will happen.

Update: Nobel prize for literature: Tomas Tranströmer joins a strange gang

Get God's Favorite Prayers at Boekhandel van Rossum in Amsterdam



When you are in Amsterdam, stop in at the wonderful bookstore, Boekhandel van Rossum on Beethovenstraat 32-4, where you can pick up a copy of my new book, God's Favorite Prayers, and a wide selection of books, including a good variety of Judaica volumes.

God's Favorite Prayers: The Music and Dance Video and Interpretation



My student at JTSA, Emily Passer submitted a video and interpretation for her final project. Its six dancers represent the archetypes of prayer that I developed in my teaching and that I write about in my new book, God's Favorite Prayers. Here is Emily's commentary:

Talmud Bavli Hullin 101a-b - translation by Tzvee

I.2
A.            Reverting to the body of the prior text [I.1 C]: He who eats of the sinew of the hip of an unclean animal — R. Judah declares him liable on two counts. [101a] And R. Simeon declares him exempt.

B.            But [according to the view of] R. Simeon any way you look at the matter [he should be liable]. If he reasons in accord with the view that one prohibition can apply on top of another, let him be liable also on account of [eating] the sinew. If he reasons in accord with the view that one prohibition does not apply on top of another, let him be liable on account [violating] the uncleanness that preceded [the prohibition]. And it he reasons in accord with the view that, The principle of imparting a flavor does not apply to sinews, let him be liable on account of [eating] the sinew [even if it is not deemed to be meat].

10/4/11

The Republic: New voices speak in the Jewish prayer book

Reform Jews are working on a new Machzor (prayer book) for the High Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur:
...The new machzor replaces the widely used “Gates of Repentance,” written in 1978 and to some, stale, stilted, and only marginally relevant to 21st-century life and consciousness.

Count Rabbi Edwin C. Goldberg among them. Spiritual leader of Temple Judea in Coral Gables, he replaced Gates of Repentance with a machzor of his own creation in 2004: “Renew Our Days.” When the Central Conference went looking for someone to captain a writer-editor team, Goldberg 48, was the logical choice. A writer of four books, Goldberg, considers himself “an iconoclast (who) wasn’t happy with the status quo. … It turns out that the rabbinate hasn’t put (a machzor) together from scratch since 1894, just revisions.”

But the rabbis acknowledge that a fresh approach to the machzor can be risky — indeed, any liturgical change in a 5,772-year-old religion can’t come about without consternation, if not resistance.

Eddie Ginsburg, a member of Temple Judea’s worship committee, said the editing team had an extremely difficult task melding the ancient and the modern.

For instance, take the traditional notion that a Jew’s fate for the coming year is determined on Rosh Hashanah then sealed on Yom Kippur, when the Book of Life is closed.

“That concept is difficult for me to accept,” said Ginsburg. “I believe in God, but I also believe in free will, that we have choices. How are they going to deal with that in the new prayer book? Or are they even going to touch it? It’s such an embedded tradition.”

The text seeks to connect with worshippers at various stages of life with contemporary language, music and imagery. It follows a spiritual arc that begins with humility, soul searching and doubt, and ends with renewal, hope, and determination to help repair the world.

Each page offers a variety of options on a common theme, so that the worshipper has choices in prayer and meditation.

There are different versions of each prayer in a two-page spread. The right-hand page shows the prayer in Hebrew as well as a transliteration and English translation. The left-hand page offers poems or meditative passages, and commentary that provides additional context about the text or its author.

It’s gender neutral, and replaces the arcane verbiage of some old prayers with progressive, more accessible language...more...

Talmud Bavli Hullin 100a-b - translation by Tzvee

[100a] [The sinew is] another category unto itself [of substance, i.e., not food, and thus] subject to a different rule [cf. b. 96a. II.1 C].

IV.1
A.            And so with a piece of carrion, and so with a piece of unclean fish which were cooked with [other] pieces: When one recognizes their [presence], [they must be removed and the rest are forbidden if there is enough] to impart flavor. And if [one does] not [recognize their presence] they are all forbidden. As to the broth, [it is forbidden only if the carrion or unclean fish] imparts a flavor [M. 7:5 D-G]. But it should be nullified by the majority [of the mixture which is permitted].

10/3/11

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

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

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

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

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

Talmud Bavli Hullin 99a-b - translation by Tzvee


R.            [99a] So why not let us derive [the rule in general about taste in mixtures of permitted and prohibited substances] from this instance? The Torah declared regarding the sin-offering, “[Every male among the descendants of Aaron shall eat of it, as their perpetual due throughout your generations, from the Lord's offerings by fire;] anything that touches them shall become holy” (Lev. 6:18). [This implies that what touches it or what absorbs the taste] has the same status as the sacrifice itself. For if [the sacrifice] is invalid, [the mixture that absorbed from it] is invalid. And if [the sacrifice] is valid, [the mixture] is valid [to be eaten in accord with] the strict rules that pertain to it.

S.             And why do you see fit to derive [the rule that the taste of a Holy Thing in a mixture is not nullified] from that source [regarding the sin-offering]? You should derive it [that it is nullified] from that source [regarding the shoulder of the Nazirite's offering].

10/2/11

Joseph Berger in the Times: Mendel Werdyger and the Recordings of Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt

Bravo to Mendel Werdyger who restored the recordings of Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt.

Download a track - Kol Nidrei - for $.99 at Amazon.

The quality is pretty good, judging from the track on Amazon, but not superb. And there is a possibility that some people will not like to hear Kol Nidre accompanied by an organ.

We suggest you also listen to Richard Tucker's Kol Nidre album snippets on Amazon as an alternative before you run to get the Rosenblatt CDs. The whole album is $9.98 and you may find it more to your taste. Who can predict?
Bit by Electronic Bit, a Cantor’s Voice Is Restored
By JOSEPH BERGER

He was called the Jewish Caruso. Indeed, fervent enthusiasts sometimes referred to Caruso as the Italian Yossele Rosenblatt.

Mr. Rosenblatt, who died in 1933, was regarded as the greatest cantor of his time. But his was a time when music was recorded on heavy shellac or celluloid 78 r.p.m. records. The quality of those recordings was never that faithful in the first place and wore away over the years.

Enter Mendel Werdyger, a lush-bearded 52-year-old Hasidic Jew who runs a record shop on 13th Avenue in Borough Park, Brooklyn. With no college degree and no professional training in sound engineering, Mr. Werdyger has used advanced audio restoration programs on the ordinary computer in his ragtag office to patiently clean away the crackles, hisses and other distortions on those creaky old 78s.