The fallout over the Doheny Kosher meat scandal continues. This week, the Jewish Journal reported that three kosher restaurants have dropped the RCC Hechsher in favor of alternative hechshers.
This can only mean one thing. RCC is not as good for the bottom line as the other hechshers. The only real reason a restaurant will switch is to increase business. It seems that RCC businesses are suffering. I have some first hand information from vendors that this is the case as well.
It goes even further. Shiloh’s Restaurant has a splash page of their website that assures customers that they are and always have been using Kehilla for their hechsher and not RCC. The note distances Shiloh’s from Doheny Kosher Meat as well. See the note here: Shiloh’s
All this can only mean one thing. A significant number of people have been spooked by the kashrus scandal. It goes so far that people need to be reassured that a kosher restaurant did not purchase any meat from Doheny. [click to continue…]
The Baltimore Orioles were in Toronto for a match-up with the Blue Jays last night. It may seem like your average AL East battle between two up and coming teams, or it could just be a symbolic contest between the two cities with Ner Israel yeshivas, Ner Israel Baltimore and Ner Israel Toronto. (No relation)
One bochur attended the game and I doubt he expected he would be caught on camera during the game. Surely he did not think he would be one of the stars of ESPN SportsCenter.
I hope he wasn’t skipping seder.
Colby Rasmus hit a ball deep into foul territory just foul of left field. Nate McLouth made a spectacular attempt to catch the ball diving into the stands mere inches from our baseball loving yeshiva bochur. It wasn’t absolutely clear whether the ball was caught. The bochur attempted to clarify matters for the umpire by signaling that it was no catch. In one SportsCenter broadcast, fellow member of the tribe Steve Levy was narrating the highlight and he said something about how “you got to trust the kid in the cap” (referring to the bochur’s yarmulka). The umpire would have none of it and called the batter out.
Clearly the bochur is a Blue Jays fan and he got caught up in the moment. He must have thought he saw the ball pop out of McLouth’s glove. I’d hate to think he got caught lying intentionally on national television.
EDIT: The bochur is sticking to his story in the comments below. He says the ball popped out. However, even if the ball did pop out it was a catch before McLouth crashed over the wall. So the umpire made the correct call.
The amazing catch finished the night as the SportsCenter Top Play of the night. The catch and the bochur were shown on TV dozens of times. The bochur is famous! [click to continue…]
One would think that the Internet would be good for at least one thing. It should help debunk conspiracies. After all, all one needs to do is do a little Googling to find out if there are actual facts to support a conspiracy theory.
Compared with the pre-Internet dark ages, it would seem to be much easier to debunk conspiracies. But in fact the opposite is true. Conspiracies proliferate on the Internet. People find confirmation for their ideas on the Internet, no matter how crazy the ideas may be, and so the Internet provides more fuel to the fire of conspiracy theories.
The NY Times published an article trying to explain why rational people believe in conspiracies and what kind of people believe in conspiracies.
It seems that the primary factors of conspiracy theorists are cynicism about the world, cynicism about politics, low self-worth, and a feeling of powerlessness. In other words, believing in conspiracies may be a defense mechanism against these sorts of feelings. Correlation does not equal causation, obviously, but there is some reasoning behind this as well.
When people feel like they have little say in the world and they feel that the world is “out to get them” they can regain some semblance of control by claiming to have inside information and a broader understanding of what is happening in the world. [click to continue…]
I am not permitted to disclose particular details, but I was privy to the court transcript of the end of the trial and court decision in the custody battle from yesterday’s post. My general thoughts have not changed. In general, I think that many women are scared that if they leave the ultra-orthodox community they will be forced to forgo custody of their children. This is a legitimate fear. That was my point yesterday.
Today, I will address this case and I will attempt to be brief.
The case is complex and there is no simple solution. Both of the parents are flawed human beings, just like the rest of us. Both parents have some merit to their case. The judge seemed to skew toward the father whenever it was a judgment call and away from the mother when it was a judgment call. The primary issue in the case, as always, is what is the best interest of the child.
One aspect of that was where the children would have less “confusion”. With very little support and with a dismissive wave of the hand to the mother’s expert, the judge ruled that having the children live a new secular life with their mother would be more harmful than continuing the same life with their father.
I think this was the weakest part of the case. [click to continue…]
Last year, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach informed the world that orthodox Jews would never take custody away from a non-ultra-orthodox mother in favor of an ultra orthodox father.
It seems the “impossible” has happened again. Kelly Myzner lost custody of her children last week.
I have not seen the court documents. Although I have read a few articles about the case and I am well aware that every situation has at least two sides to the story.
If you want to see one version of the facts go to Unpious and read Ex-Hasidic Mother Loses Custody of Children by Shulem Deen. Whether the facts are the way the ex-hasid community presents them or not, the phenomena is real. [click to continue…]
Shavuos is upon us. In our times, the holiday is celebrated as the time we received the Holy Torah at Mount Sinai. The day is a day of Torah. Many have the custom to learn through the night in anticipation of the morning which we commemorate the revelation at Sinai. Extended Torah study is an excellent way to celebrate Shavuos.
To me, the most poignant element of ma’amad Har Sinai comes before the revelation. The Torah tells us that the Jewish people camped around the mountain. The world used to describe this encampment is the word va’yichan. We would expect that the word would be va’yichanu, in the plural tense. Instead we get va’yichan, in the singular tense. Rashi quotes the famous Midrashic interpretation that the Jewish people were united as one in their preparation for receiving the Torah. Since the people were “one” the Torah uses a singular tense to describe their encampment.
The message is loud and clear. We are being told that there can be no matan Torah without unity. [click to continue…]
Over the weekend it was reported that a teacher in an orthodox Jewish school in Seattle has been charged with molesting two six year old girls in his class. It is suspected that this fellow molested more than just the two girls but he is only charged with molesting the two girls.
Sex abuse happens everywhere. It is no indictment of a school, community, or family if sex abuse occurs. The test is how sex abuse is dealt with. The most important question is whether the victim is able to articulate that they have been abused and that the victim has a safe place to talk about the abuse. If no one comes forward there is nothing to talk about.
It takes great courage to come forward. But more importantly, it takes education to come forward. Our best defense against abuse is quite simply our children. If they are equipped with the tools necessary to prevent molestation and report it when it happens we have our first two lines of defense in place.
The prosecutor in the case in Seattle attributes the girls’ willingness to come forward and their ability to articulate what happened to a book that is the brainchild of Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, written by Bracha Goetz and illustrated by Tova Leff. The book is called Let’s Stay Safe!. Incredibly, it took years for this book to see the light of day. But now it is endorsed by leading Torah authorities and it must be in every home and every school.
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Last night, I was asked by Zev Brenner what I thought of the Women of the Wall vs. the Women for the Wall. I sidestepped the question on the radio but these are my thoughts.
Rosh Chodesh is supposed to be a day of renewal for the Jewish people and a special day in recognition of Jewish women. This past Rosh Chodesh at the Kotel women engaged in a fierce turf war.
For several years the Women of the Wall have held their Rosh Chodesh service at the Kotel. They wear prayer shawls, some wear tefillin, and they read from the Torah. This violated the rules of the Kotel and arrests were routinely made. The Israel courts determined that these rules were illegal and the Women of the Wall looked forward to a peaceful service, finally. But it was not to be. A new group called the Woman for the Wall who support traditional orthodox Judaism and oppose the Women of the Wall organized a huge counter protest. [click to continue…]
The Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Israel, Rabbi Aharon Feldman has apologized to MK Rabbi Dov Lipman for calling him a rasha. In his apology, R’ Feldman says that he believes the MK Lipman is “l’shem shamayim” and wants what is best for the Jewish people including the charedim in Israel. Because of these revelations, R’ Feldman says that MK Lipman is misguided but not a rasha.
R’ Feldman makes the case that MK Lipman is wrong or misguided using traditional Torah sources and accepted wisdom in the yeshiva world. He very emphatically disagrees with MK Lipman but the discourse is civil.
Initially, I was hurt and saddened when I read R’ Feldman’s original remarks. While I can’t say I am thrilled with his position on this issue, there is something positive that I can say. R’ Aharon Feldman showed the charedi world what it means to be an honest eved Hashem. It takes guts to apologize. It always takes guts. But it takes ten times more guts when you are the Rosh Yeshiva of a prominent Torah institution and the subject of your apology is persona non grata in the charedi world. It could not have been easy to apologize but it was the right thing to do and for that I admire R’ Feldman.
Further, R’ Feldman’s apology and argument is so different than the other recent charedi responses and rhetoric towards MK Lipman. It was respectful and somewhat positive. Again, I don’t love R’ Feldman’s position on this issue. But I do appreciate how stark the difference is between the way he is handling this and the way some other charedim are handling it. [click to continue…]
This week I was in filming my father’s school in Monsey, Ateres Bais Yaakov, for their annual dinner. I always swell with pride as I get an intimate look at this incredible school. It is remarkable how much the students love their school, their teachers, Torah, and learning.
One of the highlights for me is always observing (and filming) a high school Chumash class. At Ateres, the girls are challenged to actively participate in their learning and ask questions during class.
In particular, Chumash is not so much taught, as it is learned. The students rigorously and precisely translate the words of the text, analyze the text for grammatical or other anomalies, and compile a list of questions for each verse. Only once that task is complete does the teacher begin to introduce the commentaries and interpretations of the great medieval commentators.
In this way, the various ways of learning the verse are not simply abstract interpretive choices made by great Torah scholars, rather they are solutions to problems in the text which give way to novel and illuminating interpretations. This is how the Rishonim learned Chumash. They were masters of diction and grammar. When they read a verse, they knew if the verse was rendered perfectly or if it needed interpretation. They knew all of this because, of course, they were experts in Biblical language and grammar. That expertise formed the basis for all their interpretations.
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MK Rabbi Dov Lipman is ruffling the feathers of many charedi Gedolim in Israel and America. It seems there are two levels to the rhetoric against MK Lipman.
Primarily, I think many have a problem with him by dint of his association with MK Yair Lapid. It is an article of faith that Lapid is anti-charedi and since MK Lipman is a member of MK Lapid’s party he is guilty by association. I don’t think it would be possible to support Yesh Atid and have charedi approval.
Secondarily, many have a problem with MK Lipman’s positions. I think that his positions are perceived as anti-charedi and therefore anti-Torah. In particular, supporting a requirement that save for specific instances, all charedim participate in the army or national service and join the workforce instead of a blanket exemption for all charedim from service. MK Lipman also supports requiring a basic secular education for all Israelis, no exceptions. By the way, he also supports a better Jewish education for all Israelis, no exceptions.
I don’t care to discuss whether charedim are truly the most authentic orthodox Jews or whether they are corrupting Judaism. That’s a discussion for another time. I want to discuss the reaction of American charedim to MK Lipman’s proposals. [click to continue…]
You may have noticed that I didn’t post anything new on the blog over the last few days. This was because I was very busy filming for a TV show that will be airing in the summer. It was exhausting and I simply could not get my mind in the right mode for writing.
I can’t say much about the show or give away too many details. But I will say that the show is a reality style show and our shul is being featured in one full one hour episode. I have no idea if the show will be any good, but it certainly has potential.
The most important thing I learned from this week was that Reality TV is anything but reality. What they mean is that there are no actors and there is no script. So the producers will tell you what they want and it is your job to give it to them. In other words, most of the conflict you see on these programs is manufactured for the show. Don’t believe any of the drama you see. The shows are typically interesting enough without the drama, but for some reason everyone expects drama so the show creates it.
It was very hard work being on camera for hours on end. However there was a very tangible payoff to my involvement in the show and the shul benefited very much as well.
I look forward to the broadcast of the episode and I hope we can do some online watch party so that I can give you behind the scenes insight during the show. Hopefully, I can get my act together and blogging will resume.
(Back to Pharisees and Sadducees tomorrow. Maybe.)
Today is May 1. That means that it’s the day Paul Miller returns to the Internet. Around the same time as the Internet Asifa last year, a blogger for The Verge decided to leave the world of the Internet for one full year. It was his hope that during this year he would embark on a year of self-discovery and return to his true self and not the Internet Paul Miller.
This was a happy coincidence for those who promoted the Asifa but because they viewed his journey as a vindication for their perspective that the Internet was horrible and responsible for destroying society. The Asifa even gets a mention in his article.
It’s been one year and Paul Miller has returned to the Internet. Paul Miller has written an overview essay of what he learned during his year away from the Internet and some of the things he discovered may surprise the Ichud Hakehilos. But they should not surprise people that use the Internet and people that are aware of the problems on the Internet because those people realize that the Internet is not a problem nor is the solution is a tool and no matter what problems one as they want to be solved or avoided by using Internet. [click to continue…]
It is a commonly held belief in the orthodox Jewish community that the Sadducees and the Karaites are basically the same thing. The Sadducees, along with other sectarians, challenged the Pharisees and their interpretations of the Written Torah.
However, as I hope to explore a bit in a post sometime soon, they had their own Oral Traditions and methodology. It was a close cousin to the Pharisees and they did not disagree on all that much nor was there a very wide berth separating the groups. There was even some cross-pollination and we will see in that future post.
The Karaites came on the scene 800 years later. The Sadducees were long gone and the only group that was left standing from the tumultuous Second Temple Period were the Pharisees. While in some small ways, one can trace Karaite theology to some aspects of sectarian Second Temple movements, there was likely no continued, unbroken chain connected them to sectarians.
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There are several dozen prohibitions in the Torah that relate to idol worship. Writing in the 12th century, Maimonides stridently warns against studying the texts of idolatry or even learning about idol worship. (Hilchos Avodas Kochavim 2:2)
The argument against interfacing with idol worship is that the human mind is drawn towards the things that one studies. One is not always in perfect control of what one thinks and what one wants. So even if one is studying for the sake of satisfying curiosity, or even learning to rebut, one may be drawn toward idol worship. Maimonides extends this law to include heresy as well.
This is all kinds of depressing. Under this view, it can be extremely dangerous to study anything one does not already believe because whatever one studies for whatever reason can have a very negative influence. While it might be interesting to debate or dispute this assumption, I think there is a great positive lesson to be learned as well. [click to continue…]