7/30/15

My Samsung Gear Watch tells me, Its raining!


Looking out the window is so low tech.

 

7/27/15

Recommended Book: The Book of Jewish Prayers in English by Tzvee Zahavy

This is an exceptional book by Tzvee Zahavy from Amazon Kindle. I recommend that you buy a copy today. This outstanding volume presents the Jewish prayers in English with accompanying essays about the basis of prayer, prayer as visualization and the piety and devotion of Jewish life.
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The Book of Jewish Prayers in English
The Book of Jewish Prayers in English
by Tzvee Zahavy
  Learn more  

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7/22/15

Free Kinnos Kinnot Lamentations Elucidations for Tisha B'Av

Reuven Brauner wrote to us from Raanana, Israel about his publication on the lamentations (Hebrew: kinnot or kinnos) for Tisha B'Av, "Key Notes for Kinnos." The work is available in PDF format for free downloading at http://www.halakhah.com/:

The Tisha B'Av poems of lament, the Kinnos, like all our Piyyutim and Selichos, were written in a poetic language and style containing hinted references to verses in Tanach, stories in the Talmud and Midrashim, and other historical incidents like the Crusades. They are difficult to comprehend and appreciate by even the most knowledgeable modern speaker or student of Hebrew, not to mention those who are not fluent in the Holy Tongue.

What chance is there for most of us to fully understand the depths of their messages of sadness and despair, prayer and hope?

In a modest attempt to rectify a part of this problem, I have selected a few key words and phrases from each Kinnoh and provided a flash of information regarding their definitions and references in hope that the reader will be able obtain a measure of meaning from and appreciation for what he or she is reading during the services of this day of fasting and repentance.

7/21/15

Is British Open Winner Zach Johnson Jewish?

No Zach Johnson is not a Jew. He is a devout Christian.

CNN reports, "The Open 2015: Zach Johnson -- 'I'm just a blessed boy'".
St Andrews (CNN): It was news to Zach Johnson that he'd won the Open Championship.

So focused was the 39-year-old that when Louis Oosthuizen's crucial birdie putt missed on the final hole it was his caddie Damon Green that broke the news to him.

A deeply religious man, Johnson was busy reciting scripture to keep his concentration, and when he'd finished he'd added the Claret Jug to his 2007 Masters triumph...

Is master of sex Actor Lizzy Caplan who plays famed sexologist Virginia Johnson in Showtime’s "Masters of Sex" Jewish?

Is master of sex Actor Lizzy Caplan who plays famed sexologist Virginia Johnson in Showtime’s "Masters of Sex" Jewish?

Yes Lizzy Caplan is a Jew. TOI reports:
Although she has fond memories of her Reform upbringing, bat mitzvah and Jewish summer camp, back in 2005, Caplan told American Jewish Life magazine that she had “kind of strayed away” from Jewish involvement.

“I think once I have a family I’ll be back into it,” she said. “I love being a Jew, but I’m not Super Jew.”

But last year, the Emmy-nominee blamed her lack of confidence in winning an award for outstanding lead actress on her cultural outlook.

“I don’t think it’s fair to assume that at all. I’m Jewish, so I’m predisposed to assume there’s no chance in hell that’s going to happen,” she told The New York Times.
TOI continues, "The series opens with the depiction of the pair’s release of their groundbreaking 1966 book, “Human Sexual Response.”

Indeed if you have published a book, you will love this episode.

It captures the sacred moment when the doctor receives the galley proofs from his publisher and depicts the reverence with which they are treated. Most authors know these feelings.

And in a wonderful interleaved scene that pops in and out of the episode, it portrays the fear and the fantasy that each of us authors has after we cast our books out to the public - that they will be criticized mercilessly or that they will be received as brilliant and revolutionary.

[Hat tip to ISW.]

7/15/15

To my Jeremiad preaching colleagues: I am grateful to Barack Obama for completing an agreement with Iran to prevent them from developing nuclear weapons

Hey all my Jeremiad preaching friends: I am grateful to Barack Obama for completing an agreement with Iran to prevent them from developing nuclear weapons.

Let's hear your long, mournful complaints and lamentations and your list of woes, oh you Jeremiahs. This is the season preceding Tisha B'Av and it is a religious obligation to recall the woes of the ancient prophets, to lament and to mourn.

However, I'm not joining your moaning and groaning. I am rejoicing.

This deal with Iran is a major step forward towards the stabilization of the middle East and a good thing for peace in our the world. Here's some of the news from the NY Times.



Deal Reached on Iran Nuclear Program; Limits on Fuel Would Lessen With Time

VIENNA — Iran and a group of six nations led by the United States reached a historic accord on Tuesday to significantly limit Tehran’s nuclear ability for more than a decade in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions.

The deal culminates 20 months of negotiations on an agreement that President Obama had long sought as the biggest diplomatic achievement of his presidency. Whether it portends a new relationship between the United States and Iran — after decades of coups, hostage-taking, terrorism and sanctions — remains a bigger question.

Mr. Obama, in an early morning appearance at the White House that was broadcast live in Iran, began what promised to be an arduous effort to sell the deal to Congress and the American public, saying the agreement is “not built on trust — it is built on verification.”

He made it abundantly clear he would fight to preserve the deal from critics in Congress who are beginning a 60-day review, declaring, “I will veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal.”...

7/14/15

Orthodox Judaism Escalates its War on Women


The Orthodox war on women is not an accidental element in the religion and culture of Orthodoxy. It is an essential defining fact of Orthodox belief and practice. 

An Orthodox "rabbi" in my town has escalated the war. He wrote proudly last week on his blog about how Orthodox Jews won the last battle against women. They kept the women in the back of the shul behind the mehitza. Now he says, they will win the next battle against women. They will prevent women from becoming rabbis.

The evidence is clear across the board. Orthodox Judaism without any doubt preaches that God wants women held in second class status. It teaches that God says that women must be discriminated against and denied civil rights and equality.


The Orthodox segregate women in synagogues, schools and streets and buses. 


Women cannot sit where they wish in synagogue or lead the prayers. Women cannot testify in Jewish courts. Married women cannot divorce their husbands. Women cannot sing for men. Women cannot become rabbis. Women cannot study in Yeshivas. 


The Orthodox segregate women with clothing rules. They say that women cannot wear the clothing of their choice. 


And this war on women is getting more intense. Orthodox men now refuse to sit next to women in public transportation on buses and airplanes. In Orthodox neighborhoods women are told where to walk on public sidewalks and what length their dresses and blouse sleeves must be when they go out of their homes.


Orthodox Judaism denies women the right to divorce their husbands. And there is more.


This war directed against women has been going on for centuries and continues to gain momentum now in 2015.


I have been writing in exasperation about this subject for many years. I originally wrote an essay in 1987 to analyze and characterize some of the darker clouds that I saw on the horizon within Orthodox Judaism's belligerent attitudes, especially its war on women.

These teachings about women are false. Orthodox Judaism is a beautiful religion.


What shall we do to stop this war?



Here are some other of my articles, reviews, independent study courses and more... 

[An earlier version of this post appeared here 10/28/10]. 

7/12/15

Is Bernie Sanders Jewish?

Yes, Bernie Sanders is a Jew. He is a senator from Vermont and a candidate for president of the United States.

Wikipedia reports on his early life:
Bernie Sanders was born on September 8, 1941, in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Eli and Dorothy (Glassberg) Sanders. His father was a Jewish immigrant from Poland whose family was killed in the Holocaust. His mother was born to Jewish parents in New York.

Sanders attended elementary school at P.S. 197, where he won a state championship on the basketball team. He attended Hebrew school in the afternoons and had his bar mitzvah in 1954. Sanders attended James Madison High School, where he was captain of the track team. While at Madison, Sanders lost his first election, finishing last out of three for the student body presidency. Sanders's mother died in June 1959 at the age of 46 shortly after Sanders graduated from high school. Sanders went to Brooklyn College for a year before transferring to the University of Chicago. While there, he was active in the Civil Rights Movement, and a student organizer for the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. One of the actions he took was the coordination of sit-in protests against segregated campus housing. Sanders also participated in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He was a member of the Young People's Socialist League, the youth affiliate of the Socialist Party of America.

He graduated from the University of Chicago with a bachelor of arts degree in political science in 1964. After graduating, Sanders spent several months on an Israeli kibbutz, and he moved to Vermont in 1968.

7/6/15

Why I cannot Fathom Frum Fashion

T. H. Lurhman wrote an op-ed in "The Appeal of Christian Piety" in The New York Times trying to fathom why religious women seek out a piety that segregates them and negates their human rights, i.e., that acts against their basic self interests.

She did not succeed - as I see it - in finding any sane rationale for this behavior.


Take a look at her column and let me know please if I have missed something.

I mean fashion to include the type and style of clothes that women wear.


And I mean frum to denote in this case Haredi and other fringe Orthodox groups.


I am offended that anyone would claim that God wants women to wear one specific type of clothing.


If you do believe in the divine revelation of the Torah, look at the beginning of the biblical book of Genesis. God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden without clothes. 


And we pray that all of our deceased relatives find eternal rest in the Garden of Eden. Without long sleeves, I presume.

7/4/15

The Star Spangled Banner Hebrew Scroll from 1914

It's not clear if there was a Hebrew version of the Star Spangled Banner in 1914. It's hard to tell from the brief description of the Smithsonian scroll. If anyone knows the content of the patriotic hymn of this historic scroll, please let me know.

Smithsonian Mirror of America--"Star-Spangled Banner" scroll, 1914

This scroll, donated to the Smithsonian in 1921, symbolizes how Jewish immigrants adapted their cultural traditions to fit their new lives in America. Inside the scroll are a patriotic hymn in Hebrew, written by the donor, Israel Fine; portraits of Washington and Lincoln; excerpts from Lincoln's second inaugural address; and the phrase 'E Pluribus Unum.' "

The Star Spangled Banner in Yiddish in 1943

It's the 4th of July this week and time for us to sing again the Star Spangled Banner in Yiddish courtesy of Jack Balkin.

1943 translation of the Star Spangled Banner into Yiddish by Dr. Abraham Asen, described as "the foremost Yiddish adapter of English poetry," and proudly presented in commemoration of the anniversary of the death of Francis Scott Key.

O'zog, kenstu sehn, wen bagin licht dervacht,
Vos mir hoben bagrist in farnachtigen glihen?
Die shtreifen un shtern, durch shreklicher nacht,
Oif festung zich hoiben galant un zich tsein?
Yeder blitz fun rocket, yeder knal fun kanon,
Hot bawizen durch nacht: az mir halten die Fohn!
O, zog, tzi der "Star Spangled Banner" flatert in roim,
Ueber land fun die freie, fun brave die heim!



7/2/15

Preview of the Jewish Standard Partnership with the Times of Israel

It's coming! The Jewish Standard has entered into a partnership with the Times of Israel. Here's how it looks so far. Stay tuned for fine tuning.


Buy these books!

My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Column for July 2015: Boring Shouting Apocalyptic

Dear Rabbi,

I have Facebook friends who are not personal acquaintances, but people in broad circles, friends of friends. Like me, many of them are staunch defenders of Israel. We share personal and public events related to Israel and news reports about the country. Lately, though, I noticed that a vocal minority in my circles has become louder and shriller about their defense of Israel against all criticisms. And beyond that I see a steady stream of apocalyptic pronouncements, statements that assure me of cosmic threats to Israel by numerous nations, and the catastrophic consequences of this or that. An example of recent note is a continuous drumbeat of the doom that awaits Israel (and the world) if the U.S. makes a bad deal with Iran on nuclear development. I have started blocking some of my friends from appearing on my feed because I do not want to participate in their doomsday fear fests. Have I been unfair to my friends?

Fearless In Fair Lawn


Dear Fearless,

On the one hand, your descriptive term apocalyptic does capture the character of some of the rhetoric that we hear at times from those who believe they ought to speculate about the fast-approaching fate of the world.

Genuine apocalyptic literature is a fascinating imaginative genre, a form of speculative theology and a characteristic of some fringe political thought. In Jewish tradition, the visions in the book of Daniel in the Tanach are classic examples of that mindset. The famous vision in Chapter 7 begins: “Daniel said: ‘In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.’” The Dead Sea Scrolls also contain conspicuous examples of the apocalyptic imagination.

This inventive thinking and writing often anticipates a high drama that posits that we are close to the end of days, that a great conflict is imminent, and that colorful mythic creatures — as stand-ins for nations of the world — will be part of the horrifying spectacle.

Given the history of anti-Semitism, it is not entirely far-fetched to imagine a world full of evil empires that target the Jews for elimination. And it is always meritorious to be on guard against the potential onslaught of our enemies.

But the dire predictions of disaster that you are reading on Facebook in obvious ways are not similar to ancient apocalyptic preaching. Those classic visions often cleverly encoded the message of the secrets of the end times. Only a select few knew the full meaning of which symbolic beast referred to which great world power or nation.

The shouting posts on your Facebook page are almost certainly totally transparent and obvious in their references to their specific targets. They are loud and shouting, not subtle or encoded or shrouded in any secret.

Bottom line: What you did by blocking the content was correct. Keep doing it. Turn off the noise. Stay focused. Do not be too distracted by others who constantly catastrophize about the future of the Jewish people or by those who claim with little basis some special or divine inspiration that with little nuance or imagination, enables them to express troubling and alarmist opinions about the destiny of our people.

Try to stay attentive to the here-and-now, and to find positive meaning in the rich content of your own present-day Judaism.
________________________________

The Dear Rabbi column offers timely advice based on timeless Talmudic wisdom. It aspires to be equally respectful and meaningful to all varieties and denominations of Judaism. You can find it here on the first Friday of the month. Send your questions to DearRabbi@jewishmediagroup.com.

My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Column for July 2015: Holocaust Conceit

Dear Rabbi,

A member of our community has been saying for years that he is Holocaust survivor. In fact he did live in Hungary during the Holocaust, but by all accounts, he was not subjected to any special duress during that period. It seems like this person is engaging in a form of bragging and seeks a special status, even sympathy. Why would someone do that? And what should I do about it?

Befuddled in Bergenfield


Dear Befuddled,

I’ll answer your question in two parts. First the factual. The suffering for Jews during the war was less severe in Hungary than in other parts of Europe. It is true that Germany did not occupy Hungary until 1944, late in the war. During the war, however, many Hungarian Jews suffered deprivation, starvation, humiliation, and other atrocities. Every Jew in Europe during WWII suffered trauma, whether they were in concentration camps, hidden, or partisans in the forest. Even those who escaped direct attack might have been traumatized by the loss of loved ones.

The Jews in Hungary were decimated at the end of the war. As many as 450,000 or more Jews were deported to concentration camps, and anti-Semitic laws were enacted. So as a matter of fact, a person living in Budapest through the war can call him or herself a survivor of evil Nazi rule, if that’s what he wants to do.

The Holocaust is a sensitive subject. You have to be careful of your wording and tone when you discuss it, so you do not suggest that anyone who went through it is less of a survivor. True, some people fabricate their experiences, but that’s not widespread.

You need to accept that a wide range of factors goes into how people in that circumstance choose to describe themselves and their personal histories. On one end of the spectrum, some survivors will not speak at all, even to their families and friends, about their experiences.

Your acquaintance seems to be on the other side of the spectrum — speaking out too vocally for your taste and claiming too much about his past. American culture is quite averse to open conceit. Even when the facts and a person’s achievements make it tempting for him or her to claim special merit, it’s not a good idea. And if it is done in the wrong way, it may backfire for someone who claims attention for triumphs over adversity.

On the other hand, Jewish culture is thick with recollections of enslavements, persecutions, and sufferings. Theologians have spent great efforts dealing with the cosmic and narrative meanings of our adversities over the generations.

A familiar refrain that we recognize from the Haggadah proclaims that, “In every generation they rise up against us to destroy us.” And we have faith that God redeems us from our sufferings.

Cultural analysts suggest that the survival of the Jews as a collective is strengthened by the sharing of stories of survival in the face of barbaric enemies.

Yet some historians have decried the religious meme of the persecuted and suffering Jew as an overemphasis on the lachrymose side of history. Tearful accounts of the past, they say, deflect us from the reality that while many tragic events have occurred to us as a people, most of Jewish history is positive, not sad, unhappy, mournful, or sorrowful.

Your attention-seeking acquaintance seems to have chosen to personalize our Jewish meme and make himself into a singular symbol of past suffering. While that does not sit well with you, I suggest that you try to abide his attitude. Given the historical and cultural contexts of this situation, there is little that you can or should do about it.

Remember, stories of the past ought to make us wary of the real enemies that are lurking out there to attack us. But be balanced. Stay focused, and find meaning in your own present-day Judaism. Do not be distracted from it by others who dwell overly much on the horrors of our history.
________________________________

The Dear Rabbi column offers timely advice based on timeless Talmudic wisdom. It aspires to be equally respectful and meaningful to all varieties and denominations of Judaism. You can find it here on the first Friday of the month. Send your questions to DearRabbi@jewishmediagroup.com.