Monday, December 29, 2008

Sitting Shiva...

Is really tough, but we're getting through it. I'm back home now and am really glad to be here. I missed my kids terribly, to the point of physical pain in my stomach. Nothing gave me greater comfort and nichumim than coming in last night and hugging them long and hard.

My relationship with my father was... complicated and not always pleasant. I am aware of the good he's done for many people. We received emails and phone calls and a large of outpouring of nichumim from friends all over, even as far as Israel. One friend mentioned my father will always hold a special place her heart because he introduced her to her husband (now of over twenty years).

I don't know how much I'll want to put in writing about my dad, but time will tell. I'd like to thank everyone for their words of nichumim.

Please stay tuned. I'll be back to normal (or what passes as normal for me!!!) very soon.

Am Kshe Oref.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Baruch Dayan Ha'Emes

Well, all the screw-ups regarding my father's health over the last eight months finally killed my father.

My father, Yaakov Aharon HaKohen ben Esther passed away early this morning in Las Vegas, NV. He is survived by my mother, Edit, my sister, Lelach, and myself, as well as ten grandchildren.

Baruch Dayan Ha'Emes.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

You Gotta LOVE These Guys!!!

It's a redo, but even funnier because they all join in for Dreidel!!!

Remind Me Again Why the Banks Got Bailouts?

ABC News: AP Study Finds $1.6B Went to Bailed-out Bank Execs

That's an astounding number, considering things were already spiraling a year ago, and they KNEW things were going to hell a year ago, since even our auspicious government and president admit we've been in a recession for over a year now.

Chutzpah, pure and simple...

The Unbearable Darkness of Cheney...

It seems Cheney may be a bit bitter at Joe Biden. Why? Because Biden has not asked Cheney for any VP advice... 

Cheney Says Biden Hasn't Asked for any VP Advice
WASHINGTON – Joe Biden soon will succeed Dick Cheney as vice president. So does Cheney have any advice for Biden?

Not really, it seems.

Cheney says Biden hasn't asked for any advice.

Biden has called Cheney "the most dangerous vice president we've had probably in American history." Biden also has said he couldn't name a single good thing that Cheney had done.

Cheney says he strongly disagrees with the idea that he dangerously expanded the powers of the executive branch. Cheney also says he doesn't think Barack Obama will give Biden as consequential a role as Cheney has had under President George W. Bush.

Cheney spoke on "Fox News Sunday."

Gee, golly, now why might it be that Biden wouldn't ask advice from Cheney? Hmm. Let's see. Cheney used his office for personal gain and fortune (as did the Idiot). Cheney is a VERY dangerous man. He had WAY too much power. On top of that, CHENEY was Bush's puppet-master, so OF COURSE Biden won't have as "consequential" a role as VP as Cheney did. Obama, after all, will actually put the tattered Constitution back together and UPHOLD IT!!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Robin Williams: The Reign of Error Is Over!!!

This is TOTALLY awesome!!!

Thanks to my sister!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Another Dad Update...

He had surgery yesterday. They took out his colon. That's not good. They also said he has tumors on his gall bladder (which can be easily removed) and his liver (not as easy). Apparently, if the spots on the liver are not numerous, there is a procedure called RFA they can use to remove the spots. I've not yet spoken to the surgeon, so I have NO idea what the extent of the damage is. I'm hoping to hear from the surgeon sometime today.

Please pray for him. His name is Yaakov Aharon HaKohen ben Esther.

Sniff! Rest In Peace, Nurse Chapel/Computer Voice/Lwaxana Troi!

Majel Barrett Roddenberry, of Star Trek fame, and widow of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry passed away yesterday. She was pretty cool. She played in the unaired (then, at least) pilot, The Cage, which had a different captain, Captain Christopher Pike. She was the second in command, but NBC decided the public would not accept a woman in a command position (and apparently, they already hated the character of Spock). She played Nurse (Doctor in the movies) Chapel (whose unrequited love of Spock was never really reciprocated...) in the original series. She played Lwaxana Troi, Deanna Troi's mother in Star Trek: The Next Generation and in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. And, probably most famously, she played the voice of the computer in EVERY Star Trek series, including the infamously horrible animated series. And, she was apparently slated to reprise that role in the new Star Trek movie due out May 2009. I don't know if they managed to actually record her voice before she passed away yesterday. I sure hope they did...

Rest in Peace, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

News About My Dad...

He had to have surgery again. Apparently, they missed something the first time around. They removed some of the tumors (yes, now it's plural), and left some in. I'm not sure WHY the surgeon left some in, but she did.

My dad has been having problems finding a malpractice attorney. Not because he doesn't have a case. He CERTAINLY does. If, that is, he lived in a state where one could pursue a malpractice suit and make oneself and one's attorney a lot of money. Unfortunately, despite my numerous objections, my parents decided to return to Las Vegas (before my father fell ill), which is in the state of Nevada, which has a cap of $350,000 for malpractice suits, which means the vast majority of malpractice attorneys in Nevada no longer take malpractice suits because malpractice suits are simply no longer worth the time.

And now, due to the negligence of the insurance company and the doctors and numerous hospitals he was in, he may very well die.

Isn't that LOVELY?

Considering Bankruptcy...

Well, no deals have closed, and I haven't made a dime in about fifteen months. Every single medical equipment deal I've worked to sell in the last fifteen months has fallen through. EVERY SINGLE ONE. It's gotten to the point where I've had to go to rabbis in my community to beg for money to get us through the month. Thank God they came through. However, even that was not enough and we are now over thirty days behind on one of our credit card payments.

So, it's now time to start considering bankruptcy. Filing Chapter 7, as I understand it, will allow us to keep our home, cars, and furniture. I hope. We'll probably be speaking with a bankruptcy attorney in the near future. The one question I have is the car I drive, which we own outright. We'll see...

Oy. Life really sucks... But at least bankruptcy will mean a fresh start and eliminate our credit card debt. That will lower our monthly obligations by a rather large amount...

Quote of the Day...

Reading an article about the proposed auto bailout and whether President Idiot would give federal money, the White House declared they were looking at an "orderly bankruptcy" rather than a federal bailout:

President George W. Bush, asked about an auto bailout, said he hadn't decided what he would do but didn't want to leave a mess for Barack Obama who takes office a month from Saturday.
I'm sorry, WHAT?! Doesn't want to leave a "mess" for Obama?!?! What the hell does he THINK he's leaving?! Everything nice and orderly and tidy?! I'm surprised Obama even still WANTS the job!!!

Doesn't want to leave a mess, indeed.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Why History Can't Wait - Person of the Year 2008 - BARACK OBAMA!!!

Barack Obama made Time person of the year!!!

Unfortunately, the runners-up were Hank Paulson, the $700,000,000,000 Man, and Sarah Crazy Failin' Palin!

I guess this has as much to do with influence as with good deeds and character. And Obama CERTAINLY had far more influence on the planet than anyone else this year...

Headline of the Day...

SEC chairman says agency failed to probe Madoff
No shit! Really?! How can that POSSIBLY be?!

Oh, yeah. Deregulation. That's done this country SO MUCH good!!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sodom and Gomorra...

I'm watching a fascinating documentary about the possible historical accuracy of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra. It aired a couple of nights ago on the Discovery Channel.

Boiled down, it essentially traces a meteor strike that took place around 3100 BCE. The fallout from the strike, in which the meteor shattered as it descended toward the Alps in Europe, struck what is now Southern Israel and the Dead Sea, essentially incinerating Sodom and Gomorra.

The theory of the meteor strike is based on a Sumerian clay tablet found in southern Iraq. It describes a light falling from the sky and describes trajectory using known constellations. Using computers and modern science, scientists today were able to trace what they believe is an exact date for the strike: June 29, 3123 BCE.

The reason I thought this was cool is because it fits in beautifully with the idea that God uses nature to perform his tasks. I discussed this concept nearly two years ago here. God didn't need to create sulfur and brimstone and "rain" it down from the sky. He put a meteor in motion and had it strike when it needed to strike.

This then begs the question: Pre-Destiny or Free Choice? Well, both, really. God, obviously, knew what was going to happen based on the free choice of the citizen of Sodom and Gomorra. They CHOSE to be evil, so God, at whatever point in history, put the meteor in play.

The real miracle that would have happened would have been if the people of Sodom and Gomorra HAD repented and become good people. Then, God would have deflected that meteor and the destruction never would have happened! Quite likely, that is what happened (or something similar) with the city of Nineveh in the story of Jonah. They DID repent, and the destruction never happened...

So, is science the bad guy always trying to disprove God's existence? Or is it the good guy demonstrating events in the Old Testament could very well HAVE happened? Well, probably a bit of both, depending on whom we're discussing...

Monday, December 15, 2008

I'm Changing My Name...

Yesterday and Today: Part Two...



Once again: Stupid sons of bitches...

Yesterday and Today...



Nothing learned. Not then. Not now... Not Democrats. Not Republicans.

Stupid sons of bitches.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What the FRAK?!?!

Ready for the last half season of Battlestar Galactica? Don't know what the Frak is going on? Don't even know what "FRAK" means? Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

More on Illinois Governors and Prison...

Apparently, the current and immediately former governors of the state of Illinois are not the only state governors to face or go to prison!

Here's some information about the three former Illinois governors who have gone to prison in the past 35 years.

-- Otto Kerner, a Democrat who was governor from 1961 to 1968, served less than a year of a three-year sentence after his 1973 conviction on bribery, tax evasion and other counts. He was convicted of arranging favorable horse racing dates as governor in return for getting horse racing association stock at reduced prices. Kerner died in 1976.

-- Dan Walker, a Democrat who was governor from 1973 to 1977, served 1 1/2 years of a seven-year sentence after pleading guilty in 1987 to bank fraud, misapplication of funds and perjury. The charges were not related to his service as governor.

-- George Ryan, a Republican who was governor from 1999 to 2003, was convicted of corruption in 2006 for steering state contracts and leases to political insiders while he was Illinois' secretary of state and then governor. He's serving a 6 1/2-year prison term.

In addition, William Stratton, governor from 1953-1961, was later indicted but was acquitted on charges of income tax evasion.
Jeez! What IS wrong with this state? Is it the job? The fact that Illinois was home to some notorious crime lords, such as Al Capone? I dunno, but I hope they get their act together soon and elect someone who's actually NOT crooked!

What the Hell Is Wrong with the State of Illinois?!

They seem to have major governor issues there, be they Republican OR Democrat! 

CHICAGO – Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday on charges of conspiring to get financial benefits through his authority to appoint a U.S. senator to fill the vacancy left by Barack Obama's election as president.

According to a federal criminal complaint, Blagojevich also was charged with illegally threatening to withhold state assistance to Tribune Co., the owner of the Chicago Tribune, in the sale of Wrigley Field. In return for state assistance, Blagojevich allegedly wanted members of the paper's editorial board who had been critical of him fired.

A 76-page FBI affidavit said the 51-year-old Democratic governor was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps over the last month conspiring to sell or trade the vacant Senate seat for personal benefits for himself and his wife, Patti.

The affidavit said Blagojevich discussed getting a substantial salary for himself at a nonprofit foundation or an organization affiliated withlabor unions.

It said Blagojevich also talked about getting his wife placed on corporate boards where she might get $150,000 a year in director's fees.

He also allegedly discussed getting campaign funds for himself or possibly a post in the president's cabinet or an ambassadorship once he left the governor's office.

"I want to make money," the affidavit quotes him as saying in one conversation.

U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said in a statement that "the breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering."

"They allege that Blagojevich put a for sale sign on the naming of a United States senator," Fitzgerald said."

Among those being considered for the post include U.S. Reps. Danny Davis and Jesse Jackson Jr.

Blagojevich also was charged with using his authority as governor in an attempt to squeeze out campaign contributions.

Well. So much for the Democrat. But whom did this guy replace? 
Blagojevich took the chief executive's office in 2003 as a reformer promising to clean up former Gov. George Ryan's mess.

Ryan, a Republican, is serving a 6-year prison sentence after being convicted on racketeering and fraud charges. A decade-long investigation began with the sale of driver's licenses for bribes and led to the conviction of dozens of people who worked for Ryan when he was secretary of state and governor.

Heh. Oops!

Desperation Breeds Stupidity...

Are people really this stupid? First of all, as I understand it, there is no constitutional prohibition against running for president as long as the candidate was born in the USA: 

No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.
Well, Obama was certainly born in the US, as ascertained and proven by several third party sources, including, as the article below mentions, Second, even if Obama DOES have dual, or even triple citizenship, there's no prohibition against him running and being president. 
Court: No Review of Obama's Eligibility to Serve
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court has turned down an emergency appeal from a New Jersey man who says President-elect Barack Obama is ineligible to be president because he was a British subjectat birth. The court did not comment on its order Monday rejecting the call by Leo Donofrio of East Brunswick, N.J., to intervene in thepresidential election.

Donofrio says that since Obama had dual nationality at birth — his mother was American and his Kenyan father at the time was a British subject — he cannot possibly be a "natural born citizen," one of the requirements the Constitution lists for eligibility to be president.

Donofrio also contends that two other candidates, Republican John McCain and Socialist Workers candidate Roger Calero, also are not natural-born citizens and thus ineligible to be president.

At least one other appeal over Obama's citizenship remains at the court. Philip J. Berg of Lafayette Hill, Pa., argues that Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii as Obama says and Hawaii officials have confirmed.

Berg says Obama also may be a citizen of Indonesia, where he lived as a boy. Federal courts in Pennsylvania have dismissed Berg's lawsuit. Federal courts in Ohio and Washington state have rejected similar lawsuits.

Allegations raised on the Internet say the birth certificate, showing that Obama was born in Hawaii on Aug. 4, 1961, is a fake.

But Hawaii Health Department Director Dr. Chiyome Fukino and the state's registrar of vital statistics, Alvin Onaka, say they checked health department records and have determined there's no doubt Obama was born in Hawaii.

The nonpartisan Web site examined the original document and said it does have a raised seal and the usual evidence of a genuine document.

In addition, reproduced an announcement of Obama's birth, including his parents' address in Honolulu, that was published in the Honolulu Advertiser on Aug. 13, 1961.

As I said. Desperation breeds stupidity. Are people really so desperate for things to remain status quo?! 

I just wonder what these fools are going to say in four years, at the next election, when, God willing, Obama does actually work hard to end the wars, save the economy, and reform healthcare, making this country an all around better country. Will they still complain and say he ruined everything? Based on what?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Am I Missing Something?

I understand the auto industry bailout is important, much as I am against it.

But I'm just a bit curious, because I seem to be missing something. The auto industry is in trouble because people have essentially stopped buying automobiles at this time because the economy, well, sucks. Since that's the case, I'm quite unclear as to how giving the auto industry money will solve that problem. Certainly, it will keep production going, but since most people are no longer buying cars, and certainly not NEW cars, how, exactly, is this going to help?

In other words, shouldn't the government be investing all this money into CREATING jobs and getting the economy going again rather than throwing more and more money away, to be wasted, since people can't afford to buy new cars or take out loans (financial industry)? Shouldn't the government be more concerned with the rest of us, the vast majority of us, and be creating new industries to truly stimulate our economy?

Oh, wait. I forgot. For the upper echelons, our government is Socialist, so they need to throw money at the financial institutions and auto industry. For the rest of us, it's capitalism as usual, which means screw the rest of us, let's bail out our big business friends.

Someone at the office of one of "my" senators told why, and it's so simple. She said the industries spend millions of dollars on lobbyists, and since I DON'T have a lobbyist and can't afford one, well, I'm basically shit out of luck.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Why the Auto Industry SHOULD Get the Bailout...

At least they sell something TANGIBLE! Again, I don't LIKE the idea of bailing out the rich, but at least in this case it also helps out the hundreds of thousands of auto industry workers AND all the businesses involved, such as suppliers of materiel AND local businesses.

Jon Stewart says it best:

Still ClusterF#$king to the Poorhouse!!!

This one's mostly about the impending and probably imminent auto industry bailout.

Seriously, I know most of us feel this bailout business should NOT be going on. So why are we allowing "our" government, the one "of the people, by the people, for the people," to do this?!

Oh, so you guys DROVE to Washington, thereby making yourselves look poor? Do you think we're all THAT dumb? Assholes.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Lame Duck!!!

Gonna Miss Him SO Much!!!

But not really enough to want to keep him around. Besides, history has yet to be written...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

That's MY Kind of Bailout...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A Little More Information About Murdered Rivka Holtzberg...

Making this even sadder:

Rabbi Dov Goldberg said during the service that Rivka Holtzberg told him "a month ago that she was five months pregnant."
Which makes these murders even more animalistic and disgusting.

No. Animals aren't that cruel.

Headline of the Day...

Ford Says CEO Will Work for $1

Easy to say after you've made, what, hundreds of MILLIONS of dollars already AND managed to grind the company into the ground, isn't it?


Monday, December 01, 2008

A Tough Read... A Sad Day... A Heart-Wrenching Moment...

This article is a tough read, it's sad, and the picture is heart-wrenching. Baruch Dayan Ha'Emes.

Orphan of Slain Rabbi in Mumbai Heads to Israel
JERUSALEM – The cries of little Moshe Holtzberg wounded hearts Monday at a tearful memorial for his parents in India. "Mommy, mommy, mommy!" he wailed, clutching a toy basketball while squirming in the arms of mourners at the Mumbai synagogue.

Then the toddler and the caretaker who rescued him from the terrorist attack boarded a jet along with the bodies of his parents and four other Jews slain at the Chabad House to fly to Israel — a place the curly-haired 2-year-old had never seen.

The wrenching scene at the service played over and over again on Israeli television as government officials, Chabad leaders and relatives prepared for a late-night airport ceremony to receive the victims — and to plan for the future of the orphaned Moshe.

Moshe's father, Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg, 29, and mother, Rivka, 28, ran the headquarters of the ultra-Orthodox Chabad Lubavitch movement in Mumbai. They were among six Israeli citizens killed at the center during the city's three-day terror siege.

Moshe was spirited out of Chabad House on Thursday by Sandra Samuel, a nanny who had worked at the center for years. She found him crying beside his parents' bodies, his pants drenched in blood.

"I don't know that he can comprehend or that he will remember seeing his parents shot in cold blood," said Robert Katz, a New York-based fundraiser for Migdal Ohr, an Israeli orphanage founded by the boy's family.

Moshe was accompanied to Israel by his maternal grandparents, Yehudit and Shimon Rosenberg, who had flown to Mumbai on Friday. Samuel came along, too, to provide the dazed child a familiar face as he starts his new life.

When terrorists seized Chabad House, Samuel locked herself in a laundry room, then she heard Moshe's mother screaming "Sandra, help!" Then the screaming stopped, and it was quiet, Katz said.

She cracked open the door of her hiding place and saw a deserted staircase. She ran up one flight and found the rabbi and his wife, covered in blood and shot to death. She snatched up the crying boy, bolted down the stairs and ran out of the building.

"She's been there with him throughout," Katz said.

Though Samuel had no passport or papers, Moshe's granduncle, Rabbi Yitzchak David Grossman, helped arrange for her to get a visa to Israel. In a sad coincidence, Grossman is founder of the Migdal Ohr orphanage.

At the memorial service, Rosenberg struggled to deal with the deaths of his daughter and son-in-law as his grandson cried nearby. "The Lord giveth. The Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord," he said, quoting the Book of Job.

Moshe's father was a dual American-Israeli citizen and his mother was Israeli. The couple lived in Israel and New York before they moved to Mumbai in 2003.

It was unclear who would who get custody of Moshe, Chabad officials said, though the closely knit ultra-Orthodox outreach group would provide a large safety net.

The toddler has an older sibling who has Tay-Sachs, a genetic disorder that strikes Jews of eastern European origin. He is permanently hospitalized in Israel, Katz said. The couple's first-born child died of Tay-Sachs.

The Foreign Ministry said the government would arrange funerals for those killed in Mumbai and send representatives to the ceremonies, as it does for victims of terror attacks at home.

"There are going to be thousands of people at this funeral," Katz said. "This couple wasn't living in the West Bank. They weren't settlers. They weren't occupying anyone's land. They were killed because they were Jews, simple and plain."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

Baruch Dayan Ha'Emes - Rabbi and Rebbetzin Holtzberg Murdered in Mumbai Nariman (Chabad) House Attack

Regardless of my feelings about Chabad and Lubavitchers, I find this to be a horrible tragedy and a despicable act of cowardice. What the hell did these people ever do to the murderers?! Bastard. I hope the murderers are hunted down, tortured for weeks, and then killed slowly, limb by limb.

Thank God their child survived. The parents were 29 (Gavriel) and 28 (Rivka). Children themselves.

UPDATE: Mumbai-Based Rabbi and Wife Killed in Terrorist Attacks

Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, the beloved directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of Mumbai, were killed during one of the worst terrorist attacks to strike India in recent memory.

Jewish communities around the world reacted with shock to the loss of the couple, who were killed Thursday at their Chabad House during an apparent standoff between Indian military forces and terrorists.

Their toddler son, Moshe, managed to escape with his nanny some hours before Indian commandos stormed their building, known as the Nariman House, in the popular touristy neighborhood of Colaba. The Associated Press reported that the boy was unharmed, but was wearing blood-soaked pants.

"Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg made the ultimate sacrifice," said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch. "As emissaries to Mumbai, Gabi and Rivky gave up the comforts of the West in order to spread Jewish pride in a corner of the world that was a frequent stop for throngs of Israeli tourists. Their Chabad House was popular among the local community, as well as with visiting businesspeople.

"For five years, they ran a synagogue and Torah classes, and helped people dealing with drug addiction and poverty," continued the statement. "Their selfless love will live on with all the people they touched. We will continue the work they started."

One of the Mumbai terrorists is seen in a closed-circuit television image at a central train station Wednesday night.

The Holtzbergs arrived in Mumbai in 2003 to serve the small local Jewish community, visiting businesspeople and the throngs of tourists, many of them Israeli, who annually travel to the seaside city.

Gavriel Holtzberg, 29, was born inIsrael and moved to the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, N.Y., with his parents when he was nine. A prodigious student, Holtzberg was a two-time champion in a competition of memorizing the Mishnah, a compendium of rabbinical enactments redacted in the second century C.E.

He studied at yeshivas in New York and Argentina, and as a rabbinical student served communities in Thailand and China under the Summer Rabbinical Visitation Program run by Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch.

His 28-year-old wife, born Rivkah Rosenberg, is a native of Afula, Israel. Chayki Rosenberg described her sister as dedicated to helping Jews.

She “gives lots of classes for women at the Chabad House,” Rosenberg told The Jerusalem Post.

Friends described her as always having a positive outlook and a kind word for everyone.

Two years ago, the Holtzbergs raised funds to purchas the current location of the Chabad House, a five-story building in Mumbai’s Colaba market area known as Narimon House. A trained ritual circumciser and slaughterer, the rabbi also conducts weddings for local Jewish couples in addition to teaching Torah classes and visiting with tourists.

His last known phone call was to the Israeli Consulate to report that gunmen were in his house. In the middle of the conversation, the line went dead.

The Holtzbergs joined the more than 125 people who were killed in the Wednesday night through Friday attacks, which saw dozens of suspected Islamic terrorists come ashore in Mumbai near the Gateway of India monument. The terrorists, carrying assault rifles and grenades, quickly fanned out to a central train station, the Chabad House and other tourist locations, including several popular hotels.

According to security services, the Chabad House was a pre-selected target.

Rivkah Holtzberg cuts the ribbon at the grand opening of a Jewish ritual bath in Mumbai.

A team of 15 Chabad-Lubavitch representatives in California, New York, Washington, Israel, India and Bangkok worked the phones throughout the crisis, spending a long, sleepless night awaiting any morsel of information and working to confirm at-times conflicting reports from the field. Hundreds of thousands of Jews around the world prayed for the Holtzbergs, saying Psalms in their merit.

The local police in Mumbai and the highest reaches of the Indian government got involved, but military assault teams first concentrated their efforts on the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels, where hundreds of foreign tourists were either holed up or being held hostage. When they finally entered the Chabad House on Friday, they found that the worst had occured.

Rivky Holtzberg's parents in Israel, Rabbi Shimon and YehuditRosenberg, were planning to travel to Mumbai to bring their now-orphaned grandson home to family.

To contribute to a fund established to aid relief efforts in Mumbai, go

This story will be updated as new information becomes available.

A press comference will be given by Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, chairman of the Educational and Social Services arms of the Chabad-Lubavitch Movement at 12:30pm at the Jewish Children's Museum, 792 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Bariatric Update - Very Difficult to Eat ANYTHING

I'm currently supposed to be on the pureed stage of my diet, but I'm pretty much unable to eat anything. What I DO eat, I eat VERY slowly, 1/2 cup of food in half an hour. The problem is that afterward, I have stomach and chest pains. Even drinking too much has that affect. And if anything, I eat less than the 1/2 cup I'm supposed to eat. I will be discussing this with my surgeon next week when I have my first follow-up with her.

In the meantime, however, I've lost 17 pounds since the surgery, bringing me down to 319 pounds as of this morning. I should be down to around 315 when I go for my follow-up this Monday morning. And I'm hoping to be down to about 290 or 285 by January first. That'd be nice, if I can lose the weight safely...

More updates as they occur.

Happy Turkey Day!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Best News I've Heard All Day

The ultra-conservative Right-Wing nut job anti-Semitic slut, Ann Coulter, has been silenced, at least for a while:

Ann Coulter's Jaw Wired Shut: Report

Huffington Post | November 25, 2008 07:39 AM

Ann Coulter may be completely silenced, at least for a while.

If the New York Post's Page Six report is true, Coulter broke her jaw and her mouth is wired shut:

WE HEAR...THAT although we didn't think it would be possible to silence Ann Coulter, the leggy reaction- ary broke her jaw and the mouth that roared has been wired shut...

Check back at Huffington Post for more updates...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Headline Today from the AP: Government Plans New Program to Aid Credit Issuers

Government Plans New Program to Aid Credit Issuers...

Now, let me get this straight. This whole crisis is predicated on the fact that all these banks and financial institutions issued bad loans that the borrowers could not pay back. Right? Right. That's pretty much all of this boiled down.

So, instead of giving the institutions MORE money to lend out, and then find out they're using the funds for something else, like buying other banks (PNC buying National City), which will therefore not in any way solve any problems, perhaps it's time to bail out the actual taxpayers and wipe out THEIR, or rather OUR debts. Now, then. Wouldn't THAT stimulate the economy? I mean, think about it. If we had about $1400 LESS to pay in credit card bills and student loans per month, we'd actually be able to buy groceries and clothing, as well as the rare "luxury" item, like new windows on our house or something.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Torah She'Be'Al Peh - The Oral Torah

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with an old friend of mine who somehow manages to find himself in the same basic geographic location I happen to end up in not too long after I arrive (though it DID take him three and a half years this time). We got on the topic of Dennis Praeger, the liberal-turned-conservative radio talk show host. Apparently, Praeger believes firmly in the Written Torah, the Torah She' B'Ksav, but completely delegitimizes the Oral Torah, Torah She'Be'Al Peh.

So, we naturally got to discussing the many different sects that popped up in Israel about two thousand years ago, most of which invalidated and ignored Rabbinic Torah (another term for the Oral Torah), saying the Rabbis of their times were making up most of the stuff they were saying. The most famous of these groups were the Sadducees, who did NOT believe the Rabbis' teachings and all their add-ons were valid, and the Pharisees, who WERE the rabbis and fought back ferociously to defend all the chumrahs they put in place. Now, on the other hand, some of the rules Chazal (the rabbis) put in place were actually leniencies. One such was allowing a fire to burn in AFTER the start of shabbos, as long as that fire was lit BEFORE shabbos began. This was an interpretation of the verse "do not light a fire in your dwellings of the sabbath day" (Exodus 35:3). The Sadducees interpreted this verse as meaning NO fire was allowed to be burn once shabbos begins, EVEN if lit before the start of the shabbos.

Ok, so that's really a matter of interpretation. On the other hand, the Sadducees wore their Tefillin literally between their eyes, as the verse says "between your eyes." The Rabbis interpreted the same verse as between your eyes, but above the forehead, at the hairline.

In essence, the Sadducees and other groups had a valid complaint: Stop adding so many chumrahs and making being Torah observant so difficult. And stop interpreting things that change of the meaning of what the verses say.

And it was a valid complaint. Not necessarily correct at all times, but valid.

So, how did the Pharisees legitimize their stance, their interpretations, their addition of so many chumrahs we now know as halacha, and even saying things in direct conflict with the Written Torah?

With one very simple claim: The Oral Torah is as valid as the Written Torah because the Oral Torah was handed to Moshe at Mount Sinai at the same time the Written Torah was handed to him. In other words, it was ALL given by God to the Israelites at Mount Sinai in about 1312 (give or take a couple of hundred years) BCE.

That's a wonderful claim. A powerful one. But one we can shoot down as easily as fire melts butter: Of COURSE the Rabbis are going to make this claim! After all, without it, what validity do they and their teachings have? It's the claim of hundreds, thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, of religious leaders of ALL religions throughout human history: God, or the gods if the person happened to be a "heathen," anointed me His/their messenger to bring His/their teachings to the people. My teachings are legitimate because they're from God/the gods PERSONALLY, therefore all I say is FROM God/the gods and THEREFORE, all I say is legitimate and irrefutable.

The question then becomes: Where does this leave the Oral Torah? What status should it truly have?

I've mentioned before, I don't think even Chazal themselves intended for their rulings and arguments to be recorded. When they made a ruling, they made that ruling for their times, based on specific circumstances. Sometimes one would say white and the other black, depending on how stringent the rabbi one approached happened to be. A wonderful contemporary example of this is Igros Moshe, Reb Moshe Feinstein's many volume work of answers he gave to the thousands of questions he was asked during his lifetime. The rule of thumb with this work is, use it as a guide, NOT as a manual to decide halacha. Why? Because we have no idea what the specifics were in many of the questions he was asked. Sometimes he gave a more lenient answer because of special circumstances and deciding halacha without knowing that circumstance can lead one to deciding WRONG.

However, as happened with the works of Chazal when they were collected into various volumes of Mishnah and Talmud, turning these guides into ironclad law over the centuries, and solidifying that hold with the publication of various halachic works like the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch, the same will likely happen with the Igros Moshe in just a couple of hundred years, if not less.

So, what is TRULY from God and what isn't? I don't know. I CERTAINLY do NOT believe the Oral Torah was handed down to the Israelites at the same time as the Written Torah. I mean, seriously, I even have doubts about the Written Torah. It just happens to be MUCH better written and much more open to interpretations that make it flexible enough to roll with the times, if not for the Oral Torah. For example, the times for reciting the Shema would be totally different if Chazal had lived in our world rather than theirs. Second day of Yom Tov would never have even crossed anyone's mind if there was better communication between Israel and Babylon during the Second Temple Era. Even a telegraph, much less phones, fax, email, and computers, would have caused the concept of second day of Yom Tov to simply never have come into existence. Even better, had they OFFICIALLY set the calendar at the beginning of the Second Temple Era, there never would have been second day of Yom Tov. I say officially because it was "unofficially" set pretty early on. They just followed the forms anyway. No one really has a good reason why...

To be honest, I think the Oral Torah, which, again, I do NOT believe is from God, actually caused a lot more problems for the Jewish people than it solved. I think it is the root cause of why so many Jews want nothing to do with Orthodox/Halachic Judaism. I think it was the cause of the many fractious groups that splintered up during the Second Temple Era. I CERTAINLY think it was a mistake to write it all down, pretty much with the intent of binding us to laws that would later become completely outdated. Of course, this doesn't mean I don't learn it. I do. I learn Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat once a week. And I love it. Of course Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat deals with the halachas of Bein Adam La'Chaveiro - interpersonal laws, rather than those between man and God.

Well, anyway, just a thought that's been running around my head since that conversation with my old friend, who happens to be a Right Wing Republican (even though his father's an avowed democrat and well-respected member of the LA community) Yeshivish/Chareidi (though pretty cool) dude.