2/29/12

The Honda Classic at the PGA National Champion Course Palm Beach Gardens, Florida



At the infamous "Bear Trap," three tough holes on the back nine of the
PGA National Champion Course · Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
 
The Honda Classic will be played there.
Thursday Mar 1 – Sunday Mar 4, 2012

2/27/12

Our RRJ Book Review of Naomi G. Cohen. Philo’s Scriptures: Citations from the Prophets and Writings: Evidence for a Haftarah Cycle in Second Temple Judaism.

RRJ Book Review by Tzvee Zahavy of Naomi G. Cohen. Philo’s Scriptures: Citations from the Prophets and Writings: Evidence for a Haftarah Cycle in Second Temple Judaism. Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism Series. November 2007, Brill Academic Publishers, Inc., Hardcover, 278pp. ISBN: 9004163123

Naomi G. Cohen taught for many years at Tel-Aviv and Haifa Universities and is presently a Senior Research Fellow at Haifa University. She has published both on Philo and on Jewish Liturgy, including her book, Philo Judaeus: His Universe of Discourse (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1995).

A methodical monograph, Philo’s Scriptures elucidates core issues important to the study of ancient Judaism. It explores in meticulous detail the roles of Philo within his Hellenistic Judaic community and the nature of learning in that community’s academies. Through painstaking examinations of the textual records in the works of Philo, this study also determines aspects of the development of the Judaic synagogue practice of reciting selections from the biblical prophets, known as the Haftarot. Thus the main readership for this book includes students of Philo of Alexandria, of Hellenistic Judaism, Bible scholars, researchers of Midrash, and those interested in the development of Jewish liturgy...more (pdf)

Vatican: Court Decides that Jews In Netherlands Can Observe Sabbath

We don't know (1) why the Vatican Insider reports this as news and (2) why they report the decision as "intended to cause controversy"? And why the picture of Jewish men in rain hats?

In any event this appears to be a good decision for the Jews.
In the Netherlands on Saturday orthodox Jews can go around without documents

The Supreme Court of the Netherlands has established a principle intended to cause controversy: religious obligation prevails over the law

Giacomo Galeazzi
Vatican City

In the Netherlands on Saturday orthodox Jews will go around without documents. In this case, the lay Supreme Court of the Netherlands has established a principle intended to cause controversy: religious obligation prevails over the law. So Orthodox Jews have been exempted from showing, at the request of the police, their identity card since this is in conflict with their religious beliefs. In fact, their religion forbids Orthodox Jews to take anything out of the house on the Sabbath. Therefore also their identity card....more

2/26/12

Times: On Physical Talmudic Out-of-the-box Creativity

The Times article, "When Truisms are True" describes research on simple extrinsic factors that contribute to creative thinking.

Here at this blog, we believe with true faith that Talmudic thinking is the most effective means of generating creative ideas. And for us Talmudic thinking = out-of-the-box thinking. Halakhic thinking is most definitely in-the-box thinking, i.e., not conducive to creativity.
GRAY MATTER. When Truisms Are True
By SUNTAE KIM, EVAN POLMAN and JEFFREY SANCHEZ-BURKS
WHAT ignites the engine of creativity? A popular metaphor in American business urges you to think “outside the box.” Folk wisdom advises that problem-solving is helped by thinking about something “on the one hand” and then “on the other hand.”

Is there any psychological truth to such metaphors for better thinking? Our research suggests that the answer is yes. When people literally — that is, physically — embody these metaphors, they generate more creative ideas for solving problems.
Here is the money shot from the article:
In another study, 40 undergraduates from the University of Michigan were asked to lift and hold a hand outstretched (as you might while addressing an audience from a stage). Some were asked to lift just one hand, while others were asked to switch between hands. While they were doing this, we asked them to generate novel uses for a new university complex. Among students who were allowed to switch hands — in other words, to think about a problem on “one hand” and then “on the other hand” — we found a nearly 50 percent increase in the number of uses generated.

By showing that bodily experiences can help create new knowledge, our results further undermine the strict separation between mind and body — another box that has confined our thinking for a long time. In addition, although we’re only starting to grasp how catchphrases shape how people think, it’s possible to begin prescribing some novel suggestions to enhance creativity. For instance, if we’re performing a job that requires some “outside the box” thinking, we may have to avoid working in cubicles.

But we shouldn’t avoid cubicles altogether: to think outside the box, you first need a box.
So as we would say, on the one hand, on the other hand, to think Talmudic, out-of-the-box you first need to have Halakhah, the box.

Hence a Halakhic human is not much of a creative human. A Talmudic human has a greater potential to give birth to new ideas and insights. A Halakhic human generates a pesak, a cessation, a decision, an end to further thinking. A Talmudic human gives birth to a hiddush, a fresh new concept, perspective or thought that spurs on further novel teachings.

Is transgender kosher?

Joy Ladin was once Jay Ladin. Leora Tanenbaum reviews her new book at Huffington Post:
On the face of it, "Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders" (just out from University of Wisconsin Press) is the story of how Jay Ladin, the author and an English professor at Yeshiva University in New York City, transitioned into living as Joy Ladin. But it's Ladin's relationship with Judaism that anchors this book and makes it stand out.
So is transgender kosher? Because it is rabbis who determine what is kosher, the official answer to the that is no, transgender is not kosher. Here is more from the review that makes clear what the situation entails.
Several weeks after she was awarded tenure, in June 2007, Ladin told the dean at Stern that she was transitioning to become female. She was kept on the payroll but forbidden to set foot on campus until September 2008, when her attorneys demanded that she be allowed to return. Since New York City prohibits the firing of employees based on gender identity, legally Y.U. had to retain Ladin on its academic staff. On her first day back at Y.U., the New York Post snapped a photo of Ladin and then published it under the headline "YE-SHE-VA." Ladin was taken to task for "sporting pink lipstick, a tight purple shirt and a flirty black skirt." In fact the shirt was not tight and the knee-length skirt was far from immodest.

At Y.U., the distinction between male and female is as absolute as that between milhig (dairy) and fleishig (meat). You can tell whether a student is female or male from a mile away, since females wear skirts, never pants, and males wear skullcaps.

"Gender is so central to tradition-based communities such as Orthodox Judaism," Ladin writes, "that it is more or less impossible for those communities to accommodate people who can't be easily identified as male or female." Ladin points out that this rigidity is hardly limited to Orthodox Judaism -- the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, for instance, welcomes only those born female -- but within Orthodox Judaism, being trans is considered sinful and amoral.

Rabbi Moshe Tendler, a senior dean at the rabbinical school, as well as a professor of biology and medical ethics, told the Post, "He's not a woman. He's a male with enlarged breasts," pointedly referencing that Ladin had been taking progesterone and estrogen to feminize her appearance. "He's a person who represents a kind of amorality which runs counter to everything Yeshiva University stands for. There is just no leeway in Jewish law for a transsexual."...

2/25/12

Rabbi Norman Lamm's Book on Purim and the Megillah

Rabbi Norman Lamm is one of the most influential Orthodox Jewish scholars and leaders of our generation. I consulted with him for guidance when I was a young professor starting out on my academic career in Jewish Studies and when Rabbi Lamm was just appointed president of Yeshiva University. He steered me in the right directions. He also steered YU through some turbulent times and helped to rescue it from financial disaster in the late 70s and 80s.

Rabbi Lamm is a staunch and eloquent spokesman for Orthodox Jewish values and philosophies. His new book on Purim is a work of art and of poetic expression. It is an exciting statement of Torah-true theology and commentary. His work is supported by rich knowledge of the texts of the prayers and of the Book of Esther and it is greatly enriched by two thousand years of rabbinic insights.

As a bonus this handsome book includes some of the Rabbi's sermons on other "days of salvation and thanksgiving" that are celebrated by modern Jews. The book speaks in a popular voice accessible to the layperson, Jew and non-Jew alike, thanks to the brilliant editing and contributions to the book by the noted Orthodox theologian, and talented writer, Dr. Joel Wolowelsky.

No doubt, I have faith that this book will enrich this year's Purim celebration for us at home and in the synagogue.

2/24/12

Note to Self: Do not wear Geox shoes in the rain or snow. They have little holes in soles!


We wear Geox shoes almost all the time nowadays. They are truly more comfortable for someone like us who mainly sits at a desk throughout the day. They allow air to circulate around our feet.

When we bought our first pair, the salesman assured us that the diameter of the holes in the bottom sole is smaller than the "diameter of a water molecule" and therefore the shoes are counter-intuitively waterproof, they will not leak, they will not let in water.

Note to self: They are not waterproof. They do leak. They do let in water. It's better when they are new. They let in less. As you break them in and the shoes wear a bit, the pores open and they let in more water.

Several times when we wore a pair of older Geox shoes in the rain in Manhattan, our socks got soaking wet after we walked just a few blocks. Curiously, the shoes themselves do stay mainly dry. The water goes right through the perforations in the soles and it gets sopped up by your socks, especially if you wear thick athletic type stocks like we do.

Hence (we think this is poetic enough advice to be a verse in the book of Proverbs): Do not wear Geox shoes in the rain or snow. They have little holes in soles!

Some other people in blogs say the same thing. //reposted//

JStandard: Is Rabbi Shmuley Boteach's book "Kosher Jesus" Kosher?

Our review article about Rabbi Shmuley Boteach's book "Kosher Jesus" has appeared in the Jewish Standard.

Read it here: Is Shmuley Kosher?

Watch for our next free Kindle Book day, March 4 for God's Favorite Prayers
From Talmudic Books New Soncino Talmud Titles (classic English translation)

2/21/12

Feldheim Publishers in Israel in Deep Trouble

Reuven wrote to tell us "Oy Vey" that Arutz Sheva reports, "Feldheim Books In Israel in Danger of Collapse. Feldheim Publishing in Israel, which caters to the hareidi religious community, is in danger of collapse and may be bought out."

Book publishing is so over. Nobody buys physical books. The underlying story for Jewish books is that vanity authors are keeping some of the small Israeli and American Jewish presses alive, paying big bucks to have their books published.

Here is the Feldheim story from A7:
Feldheim Publishing in Israel, which caters to the hareidi religious community, is in danger of collapse but may be bought out.

Its financial difficulties, reported Monday by B’Hadrei Haderim, are the latest in the book publishing and distributing industry that has been overwhelmed by online publishers and e-books.

Feldheim officials said it has asked for a stay in proceedings of financial claims against the company, and an industry source indicated that the Or Chaim publishing house is negotiating with Feldheim Israel to buy it out.

The stay in proceedings has not affected the operation of Feldheim’s chain of book stores, at least for the time being.

The publishing company was founded in 1939 by Philip Feldheim and now is managed by his son and grandson, who have expanded the firm. His son operates the publishing house in Jerusalem, with several bookstores in the capital city in addition to other Israeli cities with a large hareidi religious population.

Religion Dispatches: Is sport religion or is religion sport?

Jay Michaelson writes on RD, "Does God Want Jeremy Lin to Win?" And in the op-ed he ponders some questions about the religious sports figure of the hour.
If you’ve unplugged your computer and TV for the last week, you may not have heard of Jeremy Lin, the sudden basketball phenomenon, Asian-American hero, and, like Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow before him, out-of-nowhere success story who wears his faith on his sleeve.

Lin, like Tebow, is a deeply religious evangelical Christian. And while his own religious utterances have been both humble and thoughtful (Lin went to Harvard, after all), the press swirling around him has led to a spate of bad theology—which is a shame, because sports stories have the ability to capture the public imagination and have the potential to inspire us to reflect on truly important religious values, instead of truly awful ones.

The awful values, of course, have to do with theodicy: that God picks sides, and roots for one sports team over another. In the case of athletics, this belief is both ridiculous and widespread...
Okay let's just stop right there.

We think Michaelson misuses the term theodicy. But more difficult, he thinks that God does not "pick sides" or "root for one team over another."

Wait, stop. It is a belief at the core of Judaism, Christianity and Islam that God does "pick sides" and "root for one team over another."

End of critique.

2/20/12

Haaretz: Is Rick Santorum an Israeli ultra-Orthodox Jew?

Rick Santorum Feb. 7, 2012 (Reuters)No, not yet. Rick Santorum is not an Israeli ultra-Orthodox Jew. He is not Jewish. He is an American Catholic politician. 

A political analyst for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz has a biting (a bit tongue-in-cheek) take on Santorum's mix of religion and politics.
With a beard and a shtreimel, Santorum would be perfect for an Israeli ultra-Orthodox party
The battle over contraception and other 'culture wars' now raging in American presidential politics can make an Israeli feel right at home.
By Chemi Shalev

"Hadarat nashim", the exclusion of women, is the catchphrase that encompasses all of the recent manifestations in Israel of the attempts to distance females from sitting at the front of the bus, singing in military ceremonies, publicly accepting prizes, appearing on public billboards and what not. It's what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was talking about a few months ago when she reportedly told the Saban Forum in Washington that such things remind her of Iran.

Last week, in yet another sign of the close affinity of Republicans with Israel, "hadarat nashim" crossed the Atlantic and reached the U.S. Congress.

2/19/12

Amazon Judaism forum: Why do Haredim Target the Modern Orthodox?

Quite interesting that there is an Amazon Judaism forum linked to our book pages:
Why do Haredim Target the Modern Orthodox?

Not a bad discussion.

Years ago we wrote a paper explaining our view at the time of why they do that:


Meanwhile keep in mind tomorrow is free Kindle book day.
Free Kindle Book, one day only, Monday, February 20: God's Favorite Prayers

Free Kindle Book for President's Day, one day only, Monday, February 20: God's Favorite Prayers

For President's Day. A Free Kindle Book, one day only, Monday, February 20: 


Our book is all about classical Jewish prayers. On this national holiday it is worthwhile reflecting on the importance of prayer in our nation's history.

George Washington's Prayer for the states, Jun. 8, 1783: "I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field, and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristicks of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation."

Abraham Lincoln's prayer: When a pious minister told Lincoln he "hoped the Lord is on our side," the president responded, "I am not at all concerned about that.... But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord's side."


Other Titles From Talmudic Books

Kosher Prayers: selected from Yerushalmi Berakhot

Free Kindle Book, President's Day, one day only, Monday, February 20: 

God's Favorite Prayers

2/17/12

Times: The Jeremy Lin Problem and Rav Soloveitchik

Is Jeremy Lin Jewish? No, he is not a Jew.

David Brooks quotes our teacher Rav Soloveitchik to explain the "problem" facing Knick basketball player and religious person Jeremy Lin.

This matter merits some Talmudic analysis. First, we don't have a clue what Brooks means in the essay. It has something to do with being religious and being a sports star. Somehow there is or ought to be a "problem" being both. Huh? Why?

Bavli Temurah 2b: Women are on par with men

A highlight from Daf Yomi, Bavli Temurah 2b
…And what will R. Judah do with the text: ‘And if he shall at all change’? — It is to include [the exchange by] a woman, and as it is taught: Since the whole context [of exchanging] speaks only of the masculine gender, as it says: He shall not alter it nor change it, whence do you derive that the same applies to a woman? The text therefore states: ‘And if he shall at all change’, in order to include a woman. And whence does R. Meir derive that a woman [can effect an exchange]? — He derives it from the waw [‘and’]. And [what does] R. Judah [say to this]? — He does not interpret the waw. Now according to the view both of R. Meir and of R. Judah, the reason [why the law of substitution applies to a woman] is because Scripture expressly included the case of a woman, but if it had not included it, I might have thought that when she exchanged she was not punishable [with lashes].

Surely Rab Judah reported in the name of Rab and likewise a Tanna of the School of R. Ishmael taught: [Scripture says:] When a man or woman shall commit any sin that men commit; Scripture thus places woman on a par with man in respect of all the penalties mentioned in the Torah! — You might be under the impression this is the case only as regards a penalty which applies equally, both to the individual and the community, but there, since the penalty does not apply equally in all cases, for we have learnt: A community or partners cannot effect an exchange, therefore in the case of a woman also if she performed an exchange she would not be punishable [with lashes]. Hence we are informed [that this is not so]….

Soncino Translations at Halakhah.com from Talmudic Books:

Reformatted: Temurah (Substitution: 7 chapters, 34 folios) 46 Temurah - free
Original format: Temurah (Substitution: 7 chapters, 34 folios, 253 pages) Tmurah.PDF - free

2/16/12

Is Golfer Corey Pavin Jewish?

It's complicated. Yes, professional golfer Corey Pavin was born a Jew. But no, he does not practice Judaism. In religious practice he is a Born Again Christian. We don't understand how he can be a "Born Again" Christian since he was born a Jew. He is fervent in his Christianity, one of the few golfers who in interviews used to openly thank Jesus for his success on the tour.

Whatever his beliefs are now, in the Champions Tour's Allianz Championship last weekend, he made one of the most remarkable short iron shots we ever saw, a talented chip from an impossible lie up against a tree root.



Pavin is right handed but he reversed his eight iron and chipped left handed to within 5 feet of the pin. He then went on to win the tournament in a playoff. Blogger Jonathan Wall said of the stroke, "it probably ranks right up there with some of the best, and most clutch, recovery shots in the history of the game."

Here is the video clip - see at around 2:00 into the clip.



If we ever hit a shot like that one we might say a blessing like, “Blessed [art thou, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe,] who is good and does good.”

2/13/12

What a Deal! Four Kindle Tractates for 99 cents - Soncino Babylonian Talmud Me'ilah Tamid Middoth and Kinnim

Step right up. What a Deal! Hot New Releases. Four Kindle Talmud Tractates for 99 cents.

Soncino Babylonian Talmud Me'ilah Tamid Middoth and Kinnim [Kindle Edition]

Kindle Product Description

ME'lLAH (Trespass): Treats of the laws of Sacrilege or making unlawful use of consecrated things, in accordance with Lev. 5:15-16. Six Chapters.

TAMID (the Continual Offering): Describes the Temple service, in connection with the daily morning and evening sacrifice, prescribed in Ex. 29:38-41, and Num. 28:2-8. Seven Chapters.

MIDDOTH (Dimensions): Contains the measurements and descriptions of the Temple, its courts, gates and halls and the Altar, and includes an account of the service of the priestly watches in the Temple. Five Chapters.

KINNIM (Bird nests): Gives the regulations for the offering of birds prescribed in expiation of certain offences and certain conditions of uncleanness (see Lev. 1:14; 5:7 and 12:8) and discusses the case in which birds belonging to different persons or to different offerings have become mixed up with one another. Three Chapters.

Is Nicki Minaj Jewish?

No, pop singer Nicki Minaj is not a Jew. She is multiracial -- of African, Trinidadian and Indo-Asian descent (Times).

She has riled up the Church with her song performance at the Grammy Awards.
Catholic League takes aim at Minaj

A leading Catholic activist group is upset with Nicki Minaj for her exorcism-themed performance at the Grammy Awards, condemning the rapper for the "vulgar" sexual undertones during her set.

The Super Bass hitmaker staged a bizarre performance art show at music's big night as she debuted her new song Roman Holiday at Los Angeles' Staples Center, surrounded by dancing choir boys and a man dressed up as a priest.

The show depicted the exorcism of her alter-ego, Roman - but the elaborate set has not been well-received by Bill Donahue, the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

In a post on the Catholic League's official website, Donahue brands Minaj a "fool" and describes his anger at one sexually suggestive part of the gig.

He writes, "Perhaps the most vulgar part was the sexual statement that showed a scantily clad female dancer stretching backwards while an altar boy knelt between her legs in prayer. Finally, Come All Ye Faithful was sung while a man posing as a bishop walked on stage; Minaj was shown levitating."

Donahue is blaming Grammy bosses for failing to put a stop to what he claims was a sacrilegious performance.

He adds, "None of this was by accident, and all of it was approved by The Recording Academy, which puts on the Grammys. Whether Minaj is possessed is surely an open question, but what is not in doubt is the irresponsibility of The Recording Academy. Never would they allow an artist to insult Judaism or Islam."

Secular Israelis attack Haredim with nude Gauguin and Botticelli posters

A new escalation in the current culture wars -- poster wars -- in Israel.
Nude images hung in religious J'lem neighborhood

Haredi residents of Kiryat Yovel neighborhood in Jerusalem shocked to discover that paintings of nude women are hung on local bulletin boards – during Shabbat
Kobi Nahshoni

The Secular-haredi tensions over the exclusion of women reached new heights in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Kiryat Yovel where there is a growing haredi community. Local bulletin boards were recently pasted with pictures of women posing almost entirely in the nude.

The pictures were put up suring the Sabbath and included a caption that read: "The glorification of women." The haredi residents were horrified by the "abominable signs" but could not remove them because it was the holy day and doing so would involve desecrating the Sabbath.

2/11/12

Kindle your Daf Yomi Talmud Study for $.99 with the Soncino English Translation of Babylonian Talmud Tractate Temurah

The Soncino Babylonian Talmud tractate Temurah - Kindle Edition is $.99 at Amazon.

The daily study of the Talmud called Daf Yomi starts tractate Temurah on Friday, February 17.

[No Kindle yet? Pick one up at Staples or Target where the touch is $99 this week with a $20 or $10 rebate.]

Babylonian Talmud tractate TEMURAH (Substitution): Sets forth the rules governing the substitution of one offering for another in accordance with the law prescribed in Lev. XXVII, 10. Seven Chapters.

This edition of the classic Soncino English Talmud translation was reformatted by Reuven Brauner.

Brauner's new and excellent Reformatted Soncino Talmud (in PDF) is available free at http://www.halakhah.com/ where it has attracted a record number of hits and downloads.

Get your copy of the new Kindle volume today. Let's make the Talmud a big international best seller.

Updates!
Two more Kindle volumes are available! Kerithoth and Me'ilah



"God's Favorite Prayers" was published by Talmudic Books

From Talmudic Books: "Kosher Talmud: Babylonian Talmud Hullin" - live now and available for ordering

Another new Kindle Edition from Talmudic Books: "Babylonian Talmud Hullin" - live for sale now and available for ordering at Amazon.

Description: To know what food is kosher, that is, fit to eat according to rabbinic Judaism, you must study the principles set forth in this volume, the Babylonian Talmud Tractate Hullin. This translation, adheres closely to the text so that the reader has a sense of the structure and balance of the original. Yet at the same time it conveys the flow of the legal arguments and debates, the dramatic unfolding of events in stories, and the sensitivities to words and language in the exegetical texts. Its aim is to facilitate a smooth conversation between readers and the text so that, without consulting the original Hebrew and Aramaic version, they can appreciate the substantive meaning and recognize some major aspects of the style of the Talmudic text.

The free Kindle book sample (Click on: Send sample now) is quite large because the book itself is over 570 pages in print format.

Here is what one scholarly reviewer said at length in praise of the book:
From Ioudaios Review. Reviewed by: Sigrid Peterson, Department of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania.
“All may slaughter,” has to be one of the more memorable three-word opening lines ever invented – right up there with “Call me Ishmael.”  While the latter is the opening to Melville’s Moby Dick, the former is less readily identifiable. In fact, the words “All may slaughter” open and form the reiterated recall to the ground theme of Tzvee Zahavy’s modern English translation of Hullin, one of the Tractates of the Babylonian Talmud. On beginning Moby Dick, I am sure I would feel conscientious and obligated and virtuous and bored. Similarly, that was my expectation in opening Hullin on preparing to review it. That expectation has been dispelled by this accessible and fascinating portrayal of the world of the rabbis.

2/10/12

WSJ: A rabbi, a priest and a minister walk into an op-ed

The rabbi at the posh KJ synagogue on 85th street has poked his ultra-conservative head into a political fray. Here is the quintessence of how to overstate an opinion, bathing it in the waters of our finding fathers, anointing it with the oils of patriotism. Ahem. Way out of line.
United We Stand for Religious Freedom
ObamaCare's contraception mandate stands the First Amendment on its head.
By DONALD WUERL, CHARLES COLSON AND MEIR Y. SOLOVEICHIK

Stories involving a Catholic, a Protestant and a Jew typically end
with a punch line. We wish that were the case here, but what brings us
together is no laughing matter: the threat now posed by government
policy to that basic human freedom, religious liberty.

Our new cover for our Kindle ebook "Kosher Prayers"

We happily promote the publication of the new cover of the Kindle Edition of Kosher Prayers, our ebook anthology of texts from the Talmud Yerushalmi Berakhot on the topic of prayer, $4.99.

Friends told us we needed a more distinctive cover. Psst, better buy it quick. We keep raising the price.

And here is a description of the contents: The ancient rabbis had rare wisdom concerning how to talk to God in prayer. The Talmud of Land of Israel in Tractate Berakhot presents many of the ancient rabbis’ discussions about Jewish prayers with particular attention to how to pray the major Jewish prayers, the Shema and the Amidah for the weekdays, Sabbaths and holidays.

Berakhot is the first tractate of the Talmud of the Land of Israel (Yerushalmi, Palestinian Talmud). It was composed in the Land of Israel at the beginning of the fifth century C.E. This book is the author's original English translation of the most pertinent texts about prayer from the first five chapters of that Hebrew and Aramaic compilation.
Here is the Table of Contents
Preface
Kosher Prayers
Yerushalmi Tractate Berakhot
Additional Reading
The Daily Morning Prayers
The Shema and its Blessings
The Amidah
Yerushalmi Berakhot Chapter One
Mishnah 1:1
The Right Time to Pray
What is the right way to stand and pray?
The Bedtime Shema and the Demons
Juxtaposing Rituals I
The Early Shema Reciters
Mishnah 1:2
The Shema’s Early Light
Juxtaposing Rituals II
Interrupting Your Life to Recite the Shema
Interrupting Your Studies to Recite the Shema
Mishnah 1:3
Proper Positions for Reciting the Shema
Mishnah 1:4
Why Recite the Blessings of the Shema?
The Ten Commandments are in the Shema
History of Liturgy I
Why Not Recite the Ten Commandments Every Day?
History of Liturgy II

2/9/12

Is Desexualizing Jewish?

Rabbi Zev Farber discusses "Desexualizing Public Space" in a column in the Jewish Journal.

The rabbi intelligently reviews several recent events, statements and controversies that he groups under the rubric of "desexualizing" within Orthodox Judaism.

On fact and on its face, the answer is yes, desexualizing is an Orthodox Jewish activity. Farber provides texts and examples of how that works.

There's no doubt that rabbis engage in many methods of desexualizing, of prescribing numerous taboos that forbid many forms of dress, taboos that forbid a lot of ordinary contact between men and women, and also what appear to be haphazard and unfocused prohibitions, extended for the sake of making restrictions on the social lives of Jews.

Aside from the potential of social ostracism, the violation of many of the desexualizing taboos bring upon the transgressor no punishments or repercussions of any kind.

The taboos are therefore in effect suggestions, not regulations. We assume that these proscriptions are meaningful to some Orthodox men and women. And yet we do know Orthodox people who just ignore them, others who mock them, and others who feel uncomfortable about them.

So yes, desexualizing is (Orthodox) Jewish.

But personally we don't think it does much good for Judaism. Across the board generalizations about sexuality make about as much sense to us as the idea that we legislate that only one shoe size will be sold in our shoe stores. People have different sized feet and yes, they have different sized sexualities.

Is Mindful Eating Jewish?

The Times, in an informative article, describes mindful eating as a Buddhist practice.
...The concept has roots in Buddhist teachings. Just as there are forms of meditation that involve sitting, breathing, standing and walking, many Buddhist teachers encourage their students to meditate with food, expanding consciousness by paying close attention to the sensation and purpose of each morsel. In one common exercise, a student is given three raisins, or a tangerine, to spend 10 or 20 minutes gazing at, musing on, holding and patiently masticating.

Lately, though, such experiments of the mouth and mind have begun to seep into a secular arena, from the Harvard School of Public Health to the California campus of Google. In the eyes of some experts, what seems like the simplest of acts — eating slowly and genuinely relishing each bite — could be the remedy for a fast-paced Paula Deen Nation in which an endless parade of new diets never seems to slow a stampede toward obesity.

Mindful eating is not a diet, or about giving up anything at all. It’s about experiencing food more intensely — especially the pleasure of it. You can eat a cheeseburger mindfully, if you wish. You might enjoy it a lot more. Or you might decide, halfway through, that your body has had enough. Or that it really needs some salad.

“This is anti-diet,” said Dr. Jan Chozen Bays, a pediatrician and meditation teacher in Oregon and the author of “Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food.” “I think the fundamental problem is that we go unconscious when we eat.”...
We disagree with the limited definition of mindful eating, as we discuss in our chapter, "The Meditator" in our recent book, "God's Favorite Prayers."

We definitely argue that a certain kind of mindful eating is Jewish. It is a mode that includes the recitation of blessings and all that goes with that. It is an act of of mindful eating to a higher degree, one clothed in meaningful cultural and religious wrappers.

2/6/12

Was Jesus Kosher?

Was Jesus Kosher? That question automatically demands an absolute answer. It's a total no-brainer. No, Jesus was not and is not Kosher. There are thousands, perhaps millions of reasons that Jesus cannot be considered kosher -- meaning in a narrow sense, "(of a person) Observing Jewish food laws" or "Satisfying the requirements of Jewish law" and in a wider sense, "proper" or "acceptable" to Jews.

And yet, there's a new book by our neighbor Shmuley Boteach called "Kosher Jesus." We did an Amazon-read of the book, meaning we read whatever Amazon let us in its preview window, without actually buying the book. It's a good thing we did not buy it. The book has been banned by some of our Orthodox rabbinical colleagues.

Of course getting a book banned is the dream of every author and publisher. In theory it sends sales skyrocketing. "Banned in Boston" makes people interested.

According to news reports (Rabbis decry Jesus book, UPI), at least one Orthodox rabbi has said directly that the book is heretical.
"Boteach's latest book is apikorsus and must be treated as such," Rabbi Yitzchok Wolf of Chicago said Jan. 10, using a Hebrew word that roughly translates as heresy. Wolf said he had "utter contempt" for the idea of the book: He had only read its title.

Rabbi Jacob Immanuel Schochet wrote on an Orthodox Jewish Web site saying, based on his interpretation of Jewish law, the book "poses a tremendous risk to the Jewish community." He also said it was "forbidden for anyone to buy or read this book, or give its author a platform in any way, shape or form to discuss this topic."

The Times said Boteach was furious when he responded.

"We in the Jewish community have a choice. We can either, as has happened for 2,000 years, allow the Christian community to teach us about the Christian Christ, or we can take the initiative and the responsibility of teaching the Christian community about the Jewish Jesus. He was a Jew, after all," Boteach said.

Religion Dispatches: Fake Rabbi Alert from Peter Manseau

In Religion Dispatches we read an illuminating and funny Fake Rabbi Alert essay by Peter Manseau. He takes down Rabbi Ralph Messer who bizarrely proclaimed as king “on behalf of the Jewish people” the Atlanta megachurch pastor Bishop Eddie Long. (It was so phoney, Long has since apologized to us Jews.) He also calls out Rabbi Dr. Mordehi Waldman who blew his shofar to announce the coming of the messiah one Reverend Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church.

Lord knows, there are plenty of phoney rabbis. So many that we had just about sworn off trying to keep up with the news of their celebrity goings-on. But then just when we thought we could move on to other stories, along comes another fabulous and fake holy man. Amen and hallelujah.

WSJ: Tel Aviv is the World's Top Technology Business Hub

Here is confirmation from the WSJ of what many of us already knew.
...Who is going to be Europe's main technology hub? While London and Berlin both see themselves as claimants to the title, if you look at the numbers (and you take a Eurovision Song Contest view of the Continent) arguably neither can challenge Tel Aviv.

It was Ron Huldai, Tel Aviv's 13-year mayor and a former combat pilot, who, while London's Tech City was not even the subject of an interdepartmental memo, had got on with building a tech center second only to Silicon Valley. He did it not by installing high-speed fiber or hosting conferences. His approach, as he said in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, was much simpler.

"Tel Aviv had become a city that people used, not a city they lived in," he said. "We are creating a good place for hi-tech people to live in—I am doing it for the people working in hi-tech," he said.

It is the ''Field of Dreams'' model. If you build it, they will come. It is no coincidence that Tel Aviv was recently named the world¹s best gay city.

"It is about building an environment that is supportive," he said. Young digital entrepreneurs tend to be counter-cultural— attracted to cities that are vibrant, diverse and international. One third of the city is under the age of 35, and there is one bar for every 200 residents.

His bottom-up model—worry about the people—has proved successful.

According to a report commissioned by the city, Tel Aviv and its surrounding area, hosts more than 600 early stage companies. Access to venture capital is, per capita, 20-fold greater in Israel than in the rest of Europe. "If you take the amount of VC per capita, in Europe, it is $7. In the U.S. it is $72. In Israel it is double that," Jan Müehlfeit, Microsoft's European chairman asserted last year...

2/2/12

Times: Marvin Hier is the only Rabbi in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

In a charming story, the Times asserts that Marvin Hier is the only rabbi in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, "...Rabbi Hier...has been an active member for three decades. Teni Melidonian, a spokeswoman for the Academy, said he doesn’t know of any other rabbis among approximately 5,800 voting members..."

Yasher Koach, good job, Rabbi Hier.