Thursday, May 31, 2007

Speaking of Dating...

So, according to a Reuters article (I don't know how long this link will be valid) I just read, eHarmony, the Mega dating site, is being sued for refusing to offer its services to gay, lesbians, and homosexuals. Apparently, eHarmony has been pissing off the G/L/Bi community for quite a while for not offering "men seeking men" and "women seeking women" options on its site, though I'm not 100% sure what bisexuals are complaining about...

Anyway, one person tried, was denied, and she wrote the California-based dating site, asking them to change their illegal discriminatory (according to her, at least) policy, which they refused to do. So, she's suing. And the lawyers are trying to make this a class action suit.

Here's my thought on homosexuality. You want to be gay? Great. To pun a phrase in Yiddish - Gay Gesundeheit.:) What I don't find acceptable is the same thing I don't find acceptable with heterosexuals - what you do behind closed doors is none of my business and, quite honestly, I don't want to know about it. Period. I don't want to see a gay pride parade, and I don't want to see gays making out. Honestly, I don't really want to see heterosexuals making out in public either. Now, some would say I might be a little hypocritical when it comes to TV and movies. I have no problems with heterosexuals getting it on. I don't really like seeing gays (men or women) doing "it" in my face. Sorry, but for me it's just personal preference.

eHarmony was founded by an evangelical Christian, Dr. Neil Clark Warren, and had strong early ties with the influential religious conservative group Focus on the Family, according to the Reuters article. As an evangelical Christian, Warren decided not to offer homosexuals his services. Regardless of interpretation of the law in California, Warren has the right to not provide certain services. It's kind of like the sign you see in many stores: "We reserve the right to deny anyone service for any reason." Or "No shirt, no tie, no service." In Warren's case with eHarmony, the policy is "we service heterosexual dating."

Imagine walking into a supermarket, not finding kosher meat, and being told "sorry, we don't carry that here and don't plan to because we don't feel like servicing the Jewish community." OK. Great. You've lost my business because I'll go to supermarket B and buy my kosher meat there. The same applies here. The site refuses to service homosexuals. Great. GO TO ANOTHER SITE!!!! STOP FORCING A STORE TO CARRY A PRODUCT IT DOES NOT WANT TO CARRY. Further, if carrying that product goes against the owner's religious beliefs, when you sue him for that, you are suing him for his religious beliefs. Maybe, in turn, Warren should sue this woman, and the entire class action if it becomes a class action suit, for inhibiting his freedom of religion.

Imagine a non-Jew going on, not finding any non-Jewish women on it, and suing JDate for discriminating against him for not providing an option for non-Jewish women. Or imagine a non-Orthodox Jew going on a frum dating site, like Saw You At Sinai and not finding an option for denomination and suing SYAS for discriminating against him by not offering an option for someone of his Jewish practices. Pretty stupid, huh?

Or, imagine a non-Jew walking into a kosher deli (not kosher style, but actually kosher) and asking for ham and cheese on white bread. He'll be told they don't offer ham because it's not kosher and they don't offer cheese because it's a meat restaurant. Is he going to sue for the deli for not catering to his desires?

The answer to all these: NO. The person, if they really want they are looking for and not finding it in one place, will leave and find it elsewhere. If you are gay and trying to find a date on a heterosexual site, you’re not going to have any luck. So, go to another site and find a date there!

I hope the California Superior Court will find this lawsuit to be completely frivolous. Otherwise, it opens doors to a lot of very silly lawsuits out there that will drain resources that could be used for other, more deserving purposes.

Sorry to have gone on so long, but this was a too good to leave alone, and it's my blog, so I'll write if I want to...:)

One Last Comment:

Sorry, but I missed the last paragraph in that Reuters article about eHarmony. This is just too precious:

"Carlson's lawyers expect a significant number of gays and lesbians to join the class action, which seeks to force eHarmony to end its policy and unspecified damages for those denied eHarmony services based on their sexual orientation."

Excuse me? What? Damages? Hee hee Yikes!!


A very close friend of ours, a single woman living in New York, forwarded to us the following invitation to a Singles Event in Monsey, New York. The name of the person organizing the event has been changed to protect the not so innocent. See my comments below:

"Ruchie Yentastein’s June 17 Monsey event (and poem etc) for : 25-35 year old frum professionals

Greetings to all my Dear Friends (and Forgotten Acquaintances),

I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to my next event. But first, a short sonnet that I have written in honor of this occasion.

Ode to Dating
Blind Date, how do I love thee,
Let me count the ways,
Like a beautiful train with a luxurious dining car,
And first class seating,
Then being run over by it.
And like a magnificent rose,
On a clear summer day
Pink and fragrant and new,
Being devoured by two brown worms,
But much worse.

(By the way, this poem describes blind dating in my day. I am sure things have improved by now. But if not, you may want to come to this event.)

Still the Record to Beat
Five Shidduchim from one event.

And Now for the details
Why: Because it is time to get married
Who: 25-35 year old frum professionals
How much: See Schedule

Amazing Early Bird Special Until May 23---------------------------------> 33 dollars
Pretty Good Early Bird Special May 24 Until June 8 -----------------> 40 dollars
Ho Hum Regular Rate after June 8 ------------------------------------------> 50 dollars

Please send check payable to:
Ruchie Yentastein
Monsey, New York

Very Scary Request
If you would like to come, please confirm as soon as possible! Last time I had many sad people on the waiting list. Remember, you must have reservations or you will not be allowed in....

Speed Dating
As we all know how much, um, fun, speed dating can be, I am thinking of doing it again at this event. There are many good things to be said about speed dating.

What is Good About Speed Dating
Speed dating is a very good thing. Speed dating is exciting. Speed dating is cost effective. A gentleman who participates in speed dating will save 4967 dollars. A gentleman from out of town will save 64967 dollars. These are good deals. A woman will save herself 99 manicures. This is a good deal, too.

How I Derived these Calculations
For the gentleman: The average date runs about 50 dollars. Meet 100 women in speed dating, multiply by 50 and subtract event fee.
For the out of town gentleman: Take an average of 400 dollars for airfare, 200 dollars for car rental and 500 dollars for date, multiply by 100 and subtract event fee.
For the woman: Take 100 manicures, subtract one (and pick a color).

And Now for a Beautiful Story that is Sure to Bring Tears to your Eyes
This is a story about a handsome and charming young man who did not want to participate in speed dating, though he could have saved 4967 dollars. I will call him Rich Ralph. This is also a story about a beautiful and sweet young woman who did not either want to participate in speed dating (could have saved 99 manicures). I will call her Shy Shirley. Despite my begging, pleading and pitiful weeping, Shirley and Ralph remained unconvinced.
Epilogue: Forced to spend three hours together on the sidelines, while everyone else had fun speed dating, Ralph and Shirley got engaged three months later.
Moral of this Story: Whether you choose to speed date or not, statistically speaking, you have a good chance of getting engaged from the event.
Conclusion: There may or may not be speed dating, depending on the weather and depending on my mood. Hope to see you! "

OY!! As our friend in New York said, there are just no words, but I'll try to find some.

First, a sonnet is 14 lines, not ten. People really need to know what they are talking about before the talk about it or name it.

Second, Seriously, the grammar is atrocious! Come on, lady! You're inviting professionals to this event! Be professional!

Third, this invitation almost makes a mockery of singles and I, a happily married person with two children, found it quite offensive.

Now, don't get me wrong. According to our friend in New York, the person organizing this event means very well and opens her house to these things. But guilt tripping people into coming is just wrong. I've heard many first hand accounts of these "meet markets" and 99% of what I've heard is just offensive, including the term "meet market." Are singles a piece of meat to be auctioned off to the highest bidder?

There have been many blogs with many not so favorable critiques about the Shidduch System, and I am in agreement with most of them, so there is no need for me to degrade it further. Others do it better and far more eloquently than I. I just wanted to share this email.

Gotta Love Israeli MK Avigdor Lieberman!!

And I'm not being facetious. He will propose a great idea to PM Olmert, an idea I had ages ago.

The idea goes like this: Hey, Palestinians! You want your own state? You got it. We're going to completely withdraw from Gaza, close the borders, stop supplying you with economic support, water, and electricity, and declare you an enemy state to the State of Israel. Continues Lieberman: "We must sever all connections with Gaza and declare it an independent enemy entity. There is no reason Egypt cannot supply the electricity and water for Gaza and let the European Union build infrastructure and provide security if they care about the poor Palestinians so much. Membership in the axis of evil has a heavy price—financially, politically, and militarily.” For the complete article, click here.

Awesome. I may be pretty left wing when it comes to American politics and even Frumkeit, but when it comes to Israel, the security of Jews there, and politics there, I'm pretty darn far to the right. It's been forty years, and despite repeated good faith efforts by the Israelis, the Arabs in YESHA (Yehuda, Shomron, and Gaza) have time and again rebuffed any efforts at peace and have sabotaged pretty much every effort made by Israel.

Now, it's time to let go. It sucked that Israel had to give up Gaza, a part of Eretz Yisrael that rightfully belongs to the Jews, but if we had to give it, we need to give it up completely. It's time to stop pandering to the Arabs and it's time for them to start taking responsibility for themselves. Don't like it? Tough. You've had plenty of chances at peace, and you've squandered all of them. If, once the borders are closed and the Israelis completely disassociate from you, you decide to kill each other off, your problem. If you decide to attack Israel, you are declaring war and you are fair game. If you decide you want to try for true peace and accept that Israel is there to stay, good too. Whatever. But now it's time for the Palestinians to start taking responsibility for themselves, grow up, join the 21st century and start acting like civilized people, not a bunch murderous gangs of thugs who can't even get along with each other, much less with neighboring countries.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

WOW!!! What an Eye Opener!!!

So, I just spoke to a fellow over at Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa. For those who don't know, Agriprocessors produces Rubashkin meats and Aaron's Rubashkin meats (and poultry). We spoke for about twenty minutes about the cost of kosher meat and why it's so high. Now, I still don't agree that it should be that expensive, but it is, at least for the glatt.

Here are the stats he gave me: Agriprocessors slaughters about five hundred (500) head of cattle a day. Of those, only 25% are KOSHER, glatt and non-glatt included. That's about 125 head of actually kosher cattle. Of those, only about 30%, which is no more than about 40 heads of cattle, are glatt. Then, glatt or not, they have to get rid of the back end of the cow because for some idiotic reason, Ashkenazim don't "hold" from the Mesora of Traiboring the Gid HaNasheh.

So, in a month, only about 120 cows shechted are glatt, and only about 3750 cows total come out actually kosher.

Chicken, he said was another problem. They just can't get enough chickens, which explains why they are so expensive.

I did ask him why it's so hard to find the non-glatt meat. He said they do distribute it under the label of David's Meat, under the OK Hechsher. He gave the number of the distributor in my area, and if anyone is interested, I would suggest calling Agriprocessors at 563-864-7811 and finding out who the distributor is in your area and finding out where you can get it. As I understand it, Trader Joe's does carry it. Still quite curious why the kosher stores or mainstream supermarkets don't.

Now, here's the problem, as I've discussed before. The person to whom I spoke at Agriprocessors was in agreement with me that the system is very flawed and needs to change. He just didn't really have any idea how to go about doing that. Here are a couple of suggestions:

1. Stop putting more than one hechsher on the meat. Obviously, when it comes to the glatt meat coming out of Agriprocessors, all the machshirim have the same standards. Otherwise, they would not give hechsherim to the same meat that other hechsherim deem kosher/glatt. It's time to put politics aside and make it a little easier for Jews to keep kosher.

2. Anshkenazim need to let go of their fear of traiboring and start making the back half of the cow available for consumptions. This would allow a lot more kosher meat on the market, and allow people to have better cuts of meat. Believe it or not, brisket is actually the crapiest cut of meat on the cow. The only time it tastes good is when its very well done and cooked for four or five hours. Also, imagine being allowed to eat T-Bone, Filet Mignon, and other back-half-of-the-cow meats!

3. The whole hashgacha industry needs reform (GASP!! THE "R" WORD!!!). Not only with food manufacturing and meat, but in stores and restaurants as well. There is a mitzvah in the Torah that states you must charge honest prices for goods. I believe this includes not paying for freaking much money to an industry that doesn't do a whole lot of good and is certainly not as effective as they think it is in enforcing kashrus in the stores to which they give hashgacha. Far too many "incidents" have occurred over the last 30 years that prove that if a person wants to get away with selling traif in a "kosher" establishment, they will find a way to do so.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Dear Mr. President...

I know your party of Republicans loves to say that those of us who don't support your war means we don't support our troops. I know you and your party think, or least you pretend to think, that you are bringing "freedom" to the world with your illegal war fought with the excuse of "WMDs." I know you think you are leading some kind of war against global terrorism.

I also know you are completely wrong. Today, Memorial Day 2007, we honor our troops who have fallen in battle in numerous wars, including the illegal one you are currently waging in Iraq. So many of our kids have died needlessly in pointless wars, the most pointless among them being Korea, Vietnam, and the current war in Iraq.

The more liberal of us do indeed support our troops. We support them coming home safe, and as each day passes, fewer troops will have the chance to do so. It's time for Iraq to take responsibility for itself. Please, bring home the troops. Turn your attentions to your own country, its economy, which is in a shambles, its healthcare system, which is currently non-existent, its big-business-takeovers, which are blatantly violating anti-trust laws and making people's jobs harder to do, and which show no loyalty toward employees.

For years, now, your domestic policy has been unimportant to you, except when you find silly campaign "issues" to get people's votes, like gay marriage and flag burning. Perhaps now is the time to turn you presidency around and be remembered as someone who changed America for the better rather than someone who will go down as perhaps one of this country's most disastrous presidents in it 231 year existance.

But most importantly, as you must take one step at a time, please bring home our troops. They deserve to live for this country, not die needlessly for it.

In memory of our troops who have perished needlessly since April 26, 2006, here is the May 27th Doonesbury comic strip.

Another Gay Pride Parade - A Chance for yet Another Chilul Hashem

According to this article from Arutz 7 today, the Jerusalem Police have given their approval for another attempt at a Gay Pride Parade in Yerushalayim.

Regardless of my feelings about such a parade (why doesn't someone organize a Heterosexual Pride Parade?!), what really worries me are the Chareidi factions in Yerushalayim, who, when the parade was attempted about six months ago, made a huge Chilul Hashem to get their way. They were violent, burned things in the middle of busy streets, and were all around unruly. Is this going to happen again? You bet. Check out the above article, where, at a meeting held a few days ago in the home of the head of the Eidah Hareidit court, Rabbi Yitzchak Tuvia Weiss, head of the Eidah Hareidit Court, said, "Tell [Public Security Minister Avi] Dichter that he had better build another ten jails to hold all the protestors. This will be a real war."

So, instead of taking the chance to create a Kiddush Hashem at this early stage and get the parade cancelled before it is ever scheduled, the Chareidi camp is gearing up to create another huge Chilul Hashem.

It just goes along with my theory that these people aren't truly frum. They are pretenders who look for any chance to cause chaos, mayhem, and Chilulei Hashem, one of the greatest Issurim there is, instead of taking the chance to fix what they damaged six months ago and do things that would create a Kiddush Hashem. Hakadosh Baruch Hu is giving these people to opportunity to right a wrong done recently. Can we hope they will take this opportunity? At the risk of sounding pessimistic, and if the quotes coming out of the meeting of the Eidah Hareidit court, I would say, probably not. In fact, it sure sounds like to opposite is going to happen.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Troop Support...

Ok, this post has nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with politics. :)

So, the Democrats agreed to capitulate to Bush and his posse and not set a deadline for troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan. They gave him a very large check to continue waging a largely illegal war half a world away, causing chaos in those countries and getting innocent American kids killed everyday for no good reason.

Ok, this is politics at work. I may not agree with it, but it is a game, and as my father-in-law likes to point out, "The First Rule of Politics is you can't take the politics out of politics."

What I really can't stand is the pro-war Republicans like McCain and Romney who blasted those who voted against the bill, specifically high visibility senators like Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama, claiming they don't support our troops and by voting against more money for the wars are causing our troops to get killed or be ill-supplied. See this article from Reuters.

This, unfortunately, is politics at its worst. The intention of those voting against funding a continuously disastrous war isn't to get our troops killed. It's to force the hand of a president, who has waged an illegal war justified by false information (remember WMDs?), to bring the surviving troops home safely. And it's not like those politicians on the Right don't know this. They just don't care. They are war-mongers. It's time to end this ridiculous, unjustified war, which has caused nothing but animosity toward the United States, and, as a bi-product, toward Israel, which the Arab world sees as the United States' democratic proxy in the Middle east.

Let's hope that the 2008 elections will bring a return of sanity Washington and get the RWNJs (Right Wing Nut Jobs) out of office and out of positions in which they can cause, and have caused, irreparable damage the United States.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Dairy on Shavuos

As it's been a long time since I looked up reasons for eating dairy on Shavuos, I decided to a search. I came up with
article at The second reason, which is the standard one I learned in school, was fine. I've no problem with it. It basically tells us that since the Jews came away from Har Sinai with the new Halachas of kosher meat and and had to resort to dairy. Great.

It's the first explanation with which I have a major problem. The first explanation reads as follows:

"Another custom that we have is to eat dairy foods on Shavu'os. There are many reasons give for this. The reason that the Rama (in 494:3) mentions has to do with the special offering brought on Shavu'os, the Shtei HaLechem (see YomTov # 23). The Rama says that just as on Pesach, we have food items that represent the offerings brought on that day (on the Seder plate - The Z'roa/Shankbone to represent the Paschal offering, and the Beitza/Egg to represent the Chagiga/Holiday offering), so, too on Shavu'os we should eat something to remember the bringing of the Shtei HaLechem. How is this done? The law (which is being oversimplified here for brevity's sake) is that one can not use the same loaf of bread for both a meat meal and a dairy meal. If a loaf is eaten with the dairy meal, it can not be used at a meat meal. Therefore, on Shavu'os, before we begin our meat meal, we should have dairy foods. This way, when we continue our meal and have meat, we will need another loaf of bread to eat with it. This will result in our having two loaves of bread on our table, which is a remembrance of the two loaves that were offered in the Temple on Shavu'os. The Mishna B'rura adds to this that one should make the first loaf dairy by adding butter to it, so that it will be absolutely necessary to have a second loaf when eating the meat portion of the meal.

(***A caveat - before one undertakes having milk and meat at the same meal, one should make sure that they act in accordance with proper Halacha - only meat can be eaten after dairy. Dairy cannot be immediately eaten after meat.

Also, all vestiges of the dairy meal should be removed from the table before the meat is served. As there are many other applicable laws with varying levels of complexity, many people no longer eat both milk and meat and the same meal. Some eat only dairy at the meal, or they eat two separate meals, one after another, the first being dairy, the second being meat. For any questions as to how one should conduct themselves, they should speak to their local Rabbi. ***)"

This explanation is so wrong on so many levels. First of all, you want to commemorate the Sh'tei Halechem? Great. Use rolls instead of whole challahs. You're more likely to eat them. This solution solves a whole lot of problems inherent with have a dairy-then-meat meal, such as accidentally leaving dairy on the table and eating it, or leaving a piece of bread from the dairy meal on the table and accidentally eating it.

Second, there are so many chumras we are forced to keep in the interest of not being oveir an issur, such as kitniyos on Pesach, which the Halachic authorities who came up with the halacha told us we can't have because it may have a piece of grain that could become chametz mixed in with the split peas, green beans, or whatever. They didn't trust us to check, as the Sephardim do. They just said no. But then, they turn around and allow us to be in danger of eating Basar B'Chalav! Ok, the Issurim are not necessarily comparable since chametz on Pesach involves Kareis and Basar B'Chalav does not. But the idea behind the reasoning should have been the same.

This reason, which, in and of itself, is quite beautiful in that we are commemorating the Shtei Halechem brought the Bais Hamikdash on Shavuos. However, the mechanics involved, IMHO, truly negate reasonings behind other chumras we are forced to keep because rabbanim today are too scared of their own shadows and of Kanaim to change the halacha to conform, within the confines of Torah law, to living in today's world.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

So Much For Intelligent Conversation

Well, I decided to stop posting comments on other blogs. Not because I don't like what the other blogs, like DovBear and Emes Ve'Emuna have to say (though I don't necessarily agree with what they say all the time). I love their stuff, even when I disagree, mainly because it's usually presented intelligently and with forethought.

I stopped commenting because, while there are moderate people from both sides whom I respect, the extreme nut jobs, on both ends of the spectrum, but especially at the Right end of the spectrum (i.e. RWNJs - Right Wing Nut Jobs) yell and scream at each other, dominate the threads, and basically bring them to a low level of intelligence.

My goal when I started blogging, both reading and writing, was to find an intelligent forum in which to express views and perhaps find some answers and solutions to the many questions I've raised. I've been fortunate in making a connection with both Rabbi Maryles of Emes Ve'Emuna and DovBear and being able to discuss issues with them and even guest post on DovBear, which was fun, and quite an honor.

I was hoping, when I started blogging, that I would be able to have intelligent conversations with intelligent people, and, as I've said, perhaps come up with answers and solutions. Instead, I found screaming, especially from the RWNJs, essentially Bible Thumpers who cannot and will not think for themselves and swallow anything someone who thinks is greater than them without question or thought. I found this to be quite distasteful. Unfortunately, even I found myself sucked into these yelling matches, especially with people identifying themselves as Ed, Enforcer (what a sad ID - since when does Yiddishkeit have to be "enforced?), and Meishiv K'Halacha (who apparently believes himself to be the blog world's leading halachic authority).

So, I decided to stop. Maybe at some point I'll find a forum where the very pertinent questions many of us have been raising can be discussed without the RWNJs, or even the LWNJs (Left Wing Nut Jobs) screaming from both ends of the spectrum and drowning out everyone in between.

Now, I'll certainly make a comment when I really feel a need to say something about the original post, but unless I find intelligent conversation without the Bible Thumping, I'll pretty much keep to myself to avoid being brought down to the level of the RWNJs and LWNJs.

Monday, May 14, 2007


I'll be honest. I hate this. I can't stand it when a schnorrer comes to my door asking for money so some schmuck can sit in Yeshiva or kollel in Bnei Brak or Yerushalayim while my wife and I are struggling 7000 miles away to make a living and make ends meet, which we are not most of the time.

My wife and I are in financial trouble because of the yeshiva thing, because I decided not to take early responsibility and instead of going to work, I went to yeshiva. Now, my wife and I are paying the price, and it's a heavy one.

What's worse is, even if I gave this guy money, would he respect me as a Jew? He came to my door in full gear, funny round hat, white shirt (no tie, must be Chassidish), kapota (long black coat), and nice long Paiyos. I told him I don't give, and I told him that "Aniyei Ircha Kodmin" - the poor of your own city come before those of another. This is a guy probably from Me'a She'arim or Bnei Brak, and if I and my wife walked down their streets, me wearing jeans and her wearing a tichel and a denim skirt, he'd probably be first in line to through bleach at us, declaring us to be dressed in a non-Tznius fashion.

These Schnorrers are sucking the funds out of our communities, and they have no Hakaras Hatov. Our communities are already in trouble financially with schools that are too expensive and living expenses that are very high because frum Jews tend to live in more expensive neighborhoods. We don't need these Schnorrers coming 'round and taking funds away from our own city to support some schnook sitting in kollel, some schnook who would consider us beneath contempt because we're not like him but who would take our money just the same.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Jewish Educational System - In Trouble?

Oh, yeah. And it's really bad. This has been blogged about many times, in many places, most thoroughly on Orthonomics, a blog by SephardiLady, an incredibly smart woman with lots of a financial savvy and also a close personal friend.

Now, it's hitting closer to home. As my son enters Kindergarten next year, tuition will not only go up because he'll be in close longer. It'll also go up because the school, liike most Orthodox day schools, is in a financial bind.

Last night, I spoke with my Chavrusa, who also happens to be the Hebrew Studies principal at the school. I asked him what was going on, as the parents had two major meetings this week protesting the tuition hike. My chavrusa told me this crisis is hitting most schools. The biggest problem is no matter how much tuition is, it's still less, believe it or not, than what it costs to educate one child at the public school. Schools plan to and expect to survive not only off the tuition, but also off of donations from the community. Now, while there are people who give plenty of money to the school (one very wealthy person in the community, all by himself and with no desire for recognition gives $350,000 yearly to the school - and he doesn't even have kids in the school!), it's still not enough. Part of the reason for this is that people prefer to build fancier and fancier shuls rather support the schools, going directly against the halacha, which states that one must support Torah education before even building a shul.

A shul, said my chavrusa, and I agree wholeheartedly with him, needs to be functional. It does not need to cost, as our shul did (and it's in trouble as well because of the expense), six million dollars. A school, on the other hand, needs to be able to pay competitive salaries, especially to secular studies teachers, and it needs to have the facilities to fulfill its educational obligations and goals.

Here's another thing my chavrusa told me. One of the things that sucks a lot money from the school is the sports programs. Our school in particular has a very complete sports program, from basketball to wrestling and everything in between. He thinks this is a waste of money. The kids, he told me, would be happy to create teams amongst themselves and play. He thinks they should just cut the program and use the money for better purposes. This does not mean getting rid of P.E. classes. It does mean getting rid of school paid extracurricular acitivities, an expense the school just doesn't need.

Another factor is that we pay taxes that pay for the public schools, but get no benefit from them at all. An idea might be to approach the school district and ask for vouchers or an exemption so people may better afford to pay for private school.

And the fact that it is private school, I believe, is part of the problem. For the rest of the non-Jewish country, private school is a luxury for the upper middle class and upper class. For the rest of, there is public school. However, as Orthodox Jews, we ALL have to send our kids to private school, AKA Orthodox day schools, so our children may receive a Torah education and have instilled in them Torah/Jewish values. This is a very expensive venture that most of us simply cannot afford, but have no choice but to find a way. Thankfully, many schools, including ours, offer partial and full scholarships, such as our school. We are able to get a scholarship for our son and we love the school for it. Many other schools, however, are unbeding and absolutely refuse to offer scholarships.

One other solution might be to either start sending our kids to public school (if you live in an area that has a really good school) for secular studies and then send the kids for Jewish studies in the afternoon, as is done in many Conservative and Reform communities. Another might be to homeschool kids in secular studies and send the kids out for Jewish Studies in the afternoon.

I don't know. This is a problem that has been getting worse as the years have passed, and there is no real solution. But the system currently in place is very unhealthy. Depending on one, or two, or a few wealthy people in the community to finance an entire school is very shortsighted. What happens when that person passes away? What if his inheritors do not want to conitnue in their father's footsteps? Then the school is in major trouble!

A solution has to be found, and soon. Otherwise Orthodox Day Schools, like many other aspects of Jewish Orthodox life, will simply become prohibitively expensive and more and more people will be unable to give their children a Torah education.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Halachic Judaism

So, based on recommendations from a couple of readers, I've begun reading a book by Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits called "Not in Heaven," which, in essence, tells us that the formal codification of Jewish law might have been a mistake:

"Halakha is the bridge over which the Torah moves from written word into the living deed. Normally, there is a confrontation between the text, which is set [Torah She'B'Ksav - Tanach], and life, which is forever in motion. Even such an apparently easily understood commandment as ['don't work on Shabbos]' requires lengthy explanation. There is an obvious need to define what is meant by 'work.' As soon as one undertakes that task, one is involved in the confrontation between a real-life situation and a text. There are innumerable possibilities for human behavior and action, innumerable human needs and problems arising from them. How to apply them to the specific definition of 'work' requires further explanation and interpretations. How to face the confrontation between the text and the actual life situation, how to resolve the problems arising of this confrontation, is the task of Torah Sh'B'al Peh - the Oral Law...It is the wisdom of Torah implementation in the daily life of the Jewish people. It renders the Torah into a Torat Hsyim, living and teaching relevant law....

The essence of the Oral Torah is Halakah...[which] teaches the way along which the Jew is required to walk in accordance with the Torah. Halakha is the application of Torah to life. But, since there is no such thing as life in general, since it is always a certain form of life at a specific time in history, in a specific situation, Torah application means application to a specific time in a specific situation. The result of this process I call Halkhic Judaism...." (from the introduction.

"The Torah is all inclusive. It comprehends the entire life of the Jewish people. Halakha, therefore, has to interpret the intention of the Torah for all the areas of Jewish existence, the spiritual, the ethical, the economic, the socio-economic." (Opening words of the first chapter.)

In other words, Rabbi Berkovits tells us that Halacha's (the root of which is Holech - walking - as in walking through our daily lives) job is to help us walk a Torah life, a living Torah's life, based upon the the times in which we live, not based on halacha's paskined two thousand years ago, or even five hundred years ago, or even a hundred years ago. Halacha coalesces with the world around us and allows for us to live in the real world while following a Living Torah's life.

I find this fascinating. I've been thinking for a long time that perhaps the time has come for a new Torah kosher movement within Orthodox Judaism. I'd been loathe to call it Halachic or Halacha Judaism because a lot about Halacha has been bothering me of late (see many previous posts). Don't get me wrong. I follow Halacha. But I also believe Halacha should have coalesced around life as it is lived, not the other way around. Now, however, using Rabbi Berkovits' understanding of the function of Halacha, I think perhaps a new movement could actually be called Halachic Judaism.

More as I continue to read.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Misdirection of Glatt

Unfortunately, today, even the actual term "Glatt" is misleading. When I lived in Israel as a kid, my father used to pick up the salads for kiddush in our shul. Someone came up to him and asked them if they were glatt kosher. My father, not sure what else to say, replied, "sure, they check the lungs on the eggplants."

Way too many people, people who are otherwise perfectly frum, have no idea what glatt actually means, and the industry has used that ignorance in its marketing.

Now, I'm not looking to start a new movement for kulas. I'm trying to put things back the way they were. Economically, it'd be better for everyone.

According to Rabbi Harry Maryles:

"The Shechita business has always been plagued with standards issues. Some meat packing houses being concerned more with profits that the standards of Kashrus... have employed questionable Shochtim who are barely Shomer Shabbos. They were usually imported Israelis ...single men whose public religious behavior left a lot to be desired. These are not the kind of people you want responsible for Kosher slaughtering. They were trained in the mechanics of how to Shecht but they were not Yerei Shamayim.

There was also the issue of mass production. The demand for Kosher meat outweighed the level of Kosher meat produced. This resulted in some questionable Psak about which lungs (the organ that is checked to see if it has any adhesions that would make it treif) looked Kosher.

I had a friend who ran the union for such Shochtim and he was plagued with problems of actual Kashrus. Glatt, he told me was not even an issue anymore. All meat was glatt. Anything which required removal of a blemsih in a kosher way thus making it Kosher but not Glatt was not deemed worthy of the time it takes to do it and was just thrown into the Treif pile which was automatically sold to the non Kosher market.

So it isn't really about Glatt. It is about whether the Kosher label is trustworthy at all.

When a beef product is labled Glatt, that usually means it was carefully prepared along the entirety of the Kosher process, which includes ehrliche Shochtim, no compromises on Psak about adhesions, proper Koshering and all other details.

But even Glatt labels these days are not always trustworthy. Anyone can label his product Glatt. That's why one should only use products certified by a reputable Hechsher organization like the OU."

Ok, good. These were problems in the past, but since then things in the kosher slaughtering business have changed. The companies are a lot more organized, their techniques and practices have much improved in the last twenty-thirty years, and things are run differently now than they were back then. There is also the question of the kosher slaughterhouses creating a deliberate shortage to raise the prices (this from a reliable source who is intimately connected with the kosher meat business). It's assur to charge inflated prices for things. I believe this is included in the lav of accurate weights and measures and charging correct prices.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Olmert = Bush

Ok, for those of you who don't know me, here is what I think of Bush. And Olmert, for that matter.

Yes, I hate Bush. Can't stand him. Counting down the days till he's out of office.

Yet another difference between me and Chareidim...And many Religious Zionists, for that matter.

You see, I understand Chareidim thinking Bush and his Republicans are so great because of the religious thing. Ok. I don't agree, but I understand, even though they don't realize Bush believes, and has actually said that Jews are going to burn in Hell for eternity because they rejected Jesus. Whatever.

Religious Zionists who think Bush is so great for Israel (not all of them believe this, but enough do because they don't actually analyze the situation) are just plain wrong. Sure, at a glance, Bush has been good for Israel and supported her policies. Great. However, by waging his illegal war in the Middle East, which he started based on completely false and dishonest pretences (WMDs, right...sure...whatever), has caused the Arab world to hate the West, and more specifically, the United States, even more than they already did, and by orders of magnitude. Now, then, who is the United States' proxy, at least in Arab eyes in the Middle East? Hmmm. Let's see. It's the only real democracy, it's mostly Jewish, and it's a sore spot in the Arab World. Oh, yeah! Israel! So, as if they didn't have enough reason before to hate the Jews and Israel, now they all hate it even more!

So, is Bush really good for Israel in the long run? NO!!! He's causing irreparable damage!!

Well, that's my political tirade of the day.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Smooth (Glatt) Irony

I've had an interesting observation about Glatt meat I think is very ironic. One thing about glatt today, excluding Beit Yosef Shechita, is that it is not true glatt. It is only glatt B'Dieved. This I know from someone intimately familiar with the process.

Here's the irony: If the Lubavitchers and Chassidim 20-30 years ago hadn't all insisted that EVERYTHING be glatt, and had the OU not adopted the standard as the common standard of kashrus (as mentioned in this article), there would today be plenty of actual, L'Chatchila glatt meat for those who care (since so many more of us would have been brought up not to care), and the rest of us would have been eating perfectly kosher, non-glatt meat. And the price of meat probably wouldn't even be close to what it is today. And even the Chareidi/Yeshivish world and their ilk (thank you Yaakov Silver for that word), would be perfectly happy eating non-glatt.

Ironic, isn't it?


So...Just Ignore Them...

About three years, my wife, son, and I spent a Shabbos in Phoenix, AZ. We were at the time considering moving there from Los Angeles, and friends of ours put us in touch with the Rosh Kollel there, Rabbi Zvi Holland. He invited us for Shabbos and to come see the community.

Rabbi Holland, who is a couple of years younger than me but many years wiser, is an amazing person and tried to convince me of something. This was at a time when I was starting to question the Chareidi/Yeshivish way of life and how that way of life was really bothering me. We sat up on Friday night until about midnight talking about this. Now, you have to understand, Rabbi Holland is a certified, black-hat-wearing Yeshiva Musmach (from the Mir in Yerushalayim), but he is anything but Yeshivish in the traditional sense.

With all the hours of talking, he had one piece of advice about how the Yeshivish/Chareidim were acting, and still do act today. "You're not going to change them," he said. "So, just IGNORE THEM."

"What do you care what they think about you?" he continued. "You are a halacha following Jew, you keep Torah and Mitzvos. Let them do what they want to do, and you do what you need to do. Don't let them bother you. They are not worth your Ugmas Nefesh. They are not worth you being angry over them. JUST IGNORE THEM." He reiterated this many times in the conversation.

It took me almost three years, but I am finally taking his lesson to heart. They really are not worth our time.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Regarding the Glatt Meat Craze...

A commentor pointed me to this article by Professor Marc Shapiro at the University of Scranton.

Dr. Shapiro pretty much says what I, and many others, have been saying. Of course, the Chareidi community probably wouldn't like this article since it appeared in the Jewish Forward...

The Chareidi World

Just a small note - when I speak of the Chareidi world, I'm not talking about people like my next door neighbor, whose middos, and those of his children, are exemplary and who doesn't look down at people who don't do the things he does. People like him have my complete respect and are certainly members of the Orthodox world.

When I talk about the Chareidi/Yeshivish world, I'm talking about the RWNJs (Right Wiing Nut Jobs) who run around saying no one to the left of them is frum at all. These are the people who have extricated themselves from the Klal. These are people who have no concept of Bein Adam L'Chaveiro - how to treat others who don't follow their practices with respect.

Unfortunately, these RWNJs are a loud and powerful minority who have, quite successfully, taken control of many aspect of daily Jewish life.

Sorry if my earlier posts were misunderstood.

Thinking for Oneself

In a previous post, I touched upon the Chareidi world merrily putting people into Cherem in order to prevent their "dangerous ideas" from spreading and "infecting" those living in the Chareidi world.

Along the lines of leaving the rest of us alone, here is what Rabbi Natan (formerly Nosson) Slifkin has done: He has extracted himself from the Chareidi element and has directed his writings to people who do indeed prefer to think for themselves and are looking for logical, good explanations to a slew of questions, including that of the Age of the Universe (can it really be 13.7 BILLION years old?! Answer: Yes, it can.)

Realizing he does not need the Chareidi world for support and certainly not to tell him how to think, R' Slifkin stopped worrying about how he appears to the Chareidi world and continues to write and revise his wonderfully intellectual books.

Along the lines of my previous post, I think a wonderful solution is that of Rabbi Natan Slifkin's. If we all have the courage to not worry about what the Chareidi world will say about us, we would, as a Klal, have the power to institute changes within our own, mainstream Orthodox world, changes that will do away with too many chumras and allow us to start seeing Torah Judaism, not as a financial and intellectual burden.

Chareidi society has stopped thinking for itself. Its members are content to allow its leaders to do all the thinking for them, tell them how to everything, what to do, and when to do it. This is a society that has stagnated. Its leaders keep heaping on the chumras and stirring the pot with all sorts of made up controversies, like the R' Slifkin Cherem, and before that the Sheitel incident. They keep doing this because they know they have stagnated and they know if they don't create these controversies and keep making up new chumras that its members might just awaken from their stupor and start thinking for themselves again.

Insead of being upset about the Chareidi world, it's time for the Orthodox world to completely disassociate itelf from the Chareidi world, consider the Chareidi world not part of the Orthodox world, and start repairing the damage the Chareidim have inflicted on the rest of us.