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Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Rethink Everything

This footage makes me sad. It's a protest outside the building that should be housing Orot L'Banot in Beit Shemesh. Haredi extremists don't want a girls school in BS. They're threatening the mayor and the students.

This isn't a high school, mind you. It's an elementary school. They're threatening girls who are 7 and 8 years old. My daughter's age.

Not that threatening anybody of any age is okay. Sorry I have to clarify that.

I think it's important to watch this, and to read about the controversy. And I need to retrain my brain, so that when I see a biber hit or a streimel or a lange rekel or a lange bord, I'm not seeing a brother or a chaver; I'm seeing the enemy.


Monday, July 04, 2011


Going too far?

I'm fed up with the increasingly ridiculous levels of frumkeit and separation that are becoming accepted as normal. Shmarya over at FailedMessiah picked up a Ha'aretz story about separate seating at Shabbos meals, which is already considered standard operating procedure among many chasidish and 'litvish' households.

But I want to tell you about a CD I saw in a chasidishe home over the weekend.

I wish I took a picture of the CD, and I may yet. But in the meantime, take my word for it.

It's a CD of 'Shmiras Halashon' -- that's guarding against forbidden speech -- lessons. It poses everyday scenarios with various tips and ideas about avoiding gossip. It intersperses these lessons with songs.

Sounds pretty good, right? Teaching kids to speak carefully and avoid 'lashon hara,' what could be bad, right? So here's the text that was printed on the CD label:

Spoken-word scripts recorded by girls aged 7-11.
Songs sung by boys' choir. (recorded separately)

Where to begin? Where to start? How many wrong things can you count in this small disclaimer on a CD?

1. Obviously, this CD is for girls only. It features girls' speaking voices. However, even girls can't be allowed to hear girls singing. Perhaps that's because a male may walk by inadvertently and hear a snippet of the CD, destroying his entire spiritual universe in one moment of aural weakness.

2. Because this may happen, we need to know the ages of the girls whose voices appear on the CD. At the time of the recording, they were 7-11. Well, that may be less of a problem than hearing the speaking voice of a girl older than age 12. Maybe the male's spiritual universe is only damaged, not destroyed. Then again, they were only that age when the CD was recorded. They may be older now! And *poof*, we've lost another precious Jewish soul to the depravity of the media.

3. The purveyors of the CD have to tell us that these two segments were recorded separately. G0d forbid we should think for a moment that boys and girls (under age 11) were in the same studio at the same time. If they were, or even if there were a shadow of a doubt, the entire CD would be discredited and would require immediate disposal, preferably by burning.

4. What can we conclude?

Does anybody else see how completely asinine, ridiculous, and insane this is? When will it stop?

I know when it will stop. When women and girls are silenced, always and forever. Let's get it over with already.

Friday, June 24, 2011


New Square

There's a verse in Koheles (Ecclesiastes) that says, "One sinner will destroy much good."

A lot of people want to apply it to New Square. One misguided youth cast an entire village--an entire way of life--into disrepute.

But that's a mistake. It's not one sinner. It's a systemic illness and willful disregard for health and humanity. And it's time we took a stand and said "Ad kan v'tu lo." This far, and no further.

Yes, they have gemachs and chesed organizations and Torah learning 'round the clock. They also have rampant corruption, misogyny, child and spousal abuse, harassment, financial fraud, and nepotism. They also perpetuate ignorance and poverty *on purpose.* They denigrate anyone and anything that is not *exactly* like them, and they are completely unfazed when one of their own commits arson and attempted murder to defend the honor of their leader.

If we're going to hold the Palestinians responsible collectively for the actions of the terrorists among them (and we do), we have to hold the chasidim -- and I include Skver, Satmar, Bobov, Viznitz, and every other group -- equally responsible.

Maybe that's why the chasidim support the Palestinians. Collective punishment would put them out of business, too.

Anyway, I'm disgusted. I don't see the 'beards and payes' as paragons of virtue or of piety or of more-intense observance. I see them as benighted perpetuators of ignorance, mental instability, and narrow-mindedness. I will not support their mosdos. I will not honor their leaders. I'm done.

Friday, March 18, 2011


New song in honor of Purim

I hope to record this, but in the meantime, I want everyone to sing it with very heartfelt, hartzige, yeshivishe ta'am.

בשׁעה שׁמרדכי היהודי תלה
את המן האגגי על הגרדום
משׁמיע לו ולבניו ואומר

אגגים אגגים הגיע זמן
הגיע זמן הריגתכם

ואם אין אתם אשׁמים
הרי אתם ממזרים
ותבוא עליכם קללה

ערבים ערבים הגיע זמן
הגיע זמן הריגתכם

ואם אין אתם אשׁמים
הרי אתם ממזרים
ותבוא עליכם קללה

ואם אין אתם אשׁמים
זה שׁקר! כולכם אשׁמים

ותבוא עליכם קללה

ותבוא על פּגריכם קללה

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Protesting Vociferously Against Stupidity, or Responding to Rachel

The Jewish Press is still, for the most part, dumb and narrow-minded. It's been trumpeting about the evil Arabs, every week without fail, for decades. It still gives a forum to convicted felon and creep-protector Gershon Tannenbaum. But, to give credit where credit is due, it's not as dumb and narrow-minded as the Yated, Hamodia, Mishpacha, Bina, and all the other filthy haredi rags I won't allow in my house.

That said, on February 9, "Chronicles of Crisis" editor Rachel Anonymous wrote something that would have made the haredi propagandists proud. I called her on it with a scathing letter, but she opted not to print it. Big surprise. I love that I can still publish it on the Internets.

Here's her ridiculous column, and here's my response:

Re: White shirts vs. colored shirts

I’m hesitant to waste time writing to you, but the opinions you expressed in your column of February 9 are not only misguided; they’re objectively wrong. I’m talking about your assertion that black-and-white clothing are preferable for yeshiva boys and men.

The Mishna in Masechet Megilla (4:8) states specifically: “If one declares, ‘I will not step before the Ark in colored raiment,’ he may not go even in white garments.” In other words, the clothes do not make the man, and colored garments are completely acceptable for those leading the services.

Elsewhere, the Talmud speaks harshly against people who wear exclusively black-and-white, accusing them of putting on airs. In Masechet Berachot (28a), we learn that Rabban Gamliel’s policy was to bar anyone from the study hall whose “inside did not match his outside.” In other words, anyone can dress like a yeshiva boy, but what really matters is what’s inside.

Your statement that white “exudes a purity of soul” is laughable. As is your assertion that colors in the beit midrash will distract Torah scholars from their learning. Honestly? Does the presence of color distract scholars in any other discipline, or just teenage boys and men in yeshivot? Did you conduct a study? Should we ensure that all seforim are a uniform black or brown, so as not to distract the learners? What about the colors on the parochet and the Torah covers? Distracting?

You state that you like white, personally. That’s your opinion. But don’t go making blanket statements based on your personal preference.

You also set up the ‘designer label’ red herring. I agree that materialism should not be a focus in yeshiva or in shidduchim. But if you notice, there are plenty of designer-label white shirts and dress slacks, not to mention high-priced hat brands, available to those whose souls are so ostensibly pure.

Please think about what you write, in the future, and take the correct stance on this issue: There’s nothing wrong with colored clothing, and people in the shidduch parsha who are hung up on ‘white shirts’ should have their mistaken prejudices corrected.

Thanks – Michael

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


End the segulah madness

This has become a popular topic in recent weeks. DovBear writes about it today. Others have been writing about it for the last few years: The phenomenon of organizations promising salvation and healing through segulos.

It's Rosh Chodesh Elul today, and this is the day Kupat Ha'ir representatives start their 40-day unbroken minyan of Tehillim reciters. Other organizations--including one collecting money for Rubashkin--have promised 40 days of prayer at the kotel for contributors. Will it help? Maybe?

I had an argument with a prominent kiruv rabbi about this a few weeks ago, after he insinuated in a lecture that G0d helps those who daven in a particular way.

"Can you guarantee me that G0d will do X if I do Y?"
"Of course not."
"Then how can you tell people do daven in such-and-such a way and Hashem will help them in a specific way?"
"Well, it increases their chances."
"So it's like going to Las Vegas."

Then yesterday, I got a mailing from the Mikvah of Rockland County (MORC). The theme of the mailing is, "What can I do to make sure my child doesn't end up an 'at-risk' youth?"

Way to play on people's fears, huh?

The first answer, of course, is give as much money as you can to MORC. The second answer is, pray. To that end, the mailing included two cards with little aphorisms and prayers on them, attributed to the Chofetz Chaim and to the Steipler.

Here's the problem. According to the card, and I haven't confirmed this and don't particularly care to, the Steipler said the following things, among others:
There's more on the card, but this is enough to give anyone pause, isn't it? First of all, since when are women allowed to bentch audibly? Okay, that was just slightly facetious. But in all seriousness, did the Steipler actually say these things?? Did he make these determinations by studying children in yeshiva and then going to their houses and studying their mothers? Was he talking about his own mother, and generalizing?

And how can he, or any other human being on planet Earth, make such ridiculous statements and expect to be taken seriously? Does anyone remember Elisha Ben Avuyah?

This is the state to which we've sunk. Snake-oil and superstition are replacing direct communication with and faith in G0d.

And it's Rosh Chodesh Elul. Maybe I should pay a rabbi to pray for me for 40 days so my faith in rabbis can be restored.

*Here's the way it's presented in a discussion forum on the Imamother site.

1) Children who are raised in a home in which the mother davens each and every word (slowly and with kavana --ed. the Hebrew doesn't say this), understand Gemara and Mishna better than other children. 2) Children who are raised in a home in which the mother says each bracha out loud and in a pleasant voice, have better middos and less chutzpa. 3) A mother who davens every day and turns her eyes to heaven, has children who have more success than other children. 4) More effective than any educational method in the world, is the sound of a mother who says the bracha, shehakol nihiya bidvaro out loud in her home. 5) Children who are raised in a home in which the mother says Birkas Ha'Mazon out loud, have more protection from illnesses and traffic accidents and merit great heavenly protection. 6) A mother who mentions the name of Hashem and praises Him, will merit children whose faces reflect the chein of Yosef Ha'Tzadik.

Thursday, August 05, 2010


Mazel Tov, Chelsea & Marc

Everybody's up in arms about how Chelsea Clinton married a Jewish man. Yated calls it a symptom of the "spiritual holocaust" in which we live. R' Asher Lopatin thinks there may be a kiddush Hashem hidden within the chilul Hashem, because now millions of Americans saw a proud Jew 'doing' Jewish, as Richard Joel used to put it.

I think there's an element of spiritual karma here, and you may disagree, but I think it's just as good a theory as any.

Ten years ago, Hillary campaigned in New Square and arranged for Skvere askonim to visit her husband. Miraculously, a few weeks after she was elected as senator, Bill Clinton commuted the sentences of four Skvere chasidim who were convicted of stealing $30 million from the government. Here's the relevant excerpt from Wikipedia:

Four Hasidic men from New Square, Benjamin Berger, Jacob Elbaum, David Goldstein, and Kalmen Stern, created a nonexistent Jewish school to receive $30 million United States dollars of education grants, subsidies, and loans from the U.S. Federal Government. The men were convicted in 1999. In October of that year all four men received prison sentences ranging from 30 months to 78 months. Two other suspects who were indicted left the United States. Hillary Clinton met with New Square-area Hasidic leaders as part of her senate campaign. Michael Duffy and Karen Tumulty of TIME said that "as far as anyone knows, that was a campaign event only; no pardons were mentioned." Hillary Clinton attended another session with the men, who wanted to see the four Hasidic leaders released. After Hillary Clinton was voted in as a senator, during the morning of December 22 Twersky and an associate visited Bill Clinton in the White House Map Room in Washington, D.C. and asked him to pardon the four men. Hillary Clinton attended the meeting; she said that she did not participate in it and did not discuss the meeting with her husband. On January 20, 2001 President of the United States Bill Clinton commuted the sentences of the men; Berger's sentence became two years and the other men each had 30 months. Federal prosecutors investigated the pardons to see if they were made in exchange for political support.

Now, let's say that the purpose of the sitra achra (or satan or whatever name you give to the negative spiritual forces) is to get Jewish people to do bad things, and to create general chaos and problems in the world. These four guys served the SA's purpose admirably, and Hillary and Bill furthered the SA's agenda by helping these guys get lighter sentences. Now, chasidim know that they can defraud Uncle Sam and their rebbes will intercede and 'take care of business.' And sure enough, in the last decade, how many chasidim and even rebbes have been investigated, caught, and sent upstate to a nice 'bungalow colony' for a couple of years? Surf around and you'll see.

So doesn't it make sense that the SA would 'reward' Hillary and Bill by helping them be the vehicle of another aveira - namely - the intermarriage of Marc Mezvinsky? I think it's poetic and elegant, the way G0d works. And I think you can blame the chasidishe rebbes for this 'spiritual holocaust.'

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