Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Blessing Of The Sun - Birchat HaChama - ברכת החמה

This is an interesting background behind the reasons for the recitation of Bichat Hachama, the blessing of the sun, once every twenty-eight years.

Boiled down, Jews recite the blessing over the sun once every twenty-eight years, sometime in Nissan, on a Wednesday, to commemorate the anniversary of the sun's creation and it's return to its actual starting orbit, or starting point in the sky, if you will.

I've only really got this to say: If the month of Nissan, or rather, the vernal equinox, is when the sun was actually created, then how can we also possibly believe the beginning of the world, the creation, happened during the week before Rosh Hashana.

Just another of hundreds or thousands of contradictions, to which the inevitable, and quite stupid answer, is: Eilu v'Eilu Divrei Elokim Chaim - both are the words of a living God.

Yeah. Right. Puh-LEAZE!

Moses is Departing Egypt: A Facebook Haggadah

This is pretty hilarious!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Slowing Down?

I HOPE not. It's just that between my mom finally moving to town last week, starting a new business that my partner and I are working hard to get off the ground, my medical equipment business looking like it's starting to pick up (please, God!), and Passover preparations, it's been a bit crazy.

Now, this time of year brings all sorts of fun with it! It brings about all three of my biggest pet peeves all at once: Daylight Saving Time (here, here, and here), second day of Yom Tov (too many to list individually, so click this and see the list), and, of course, Kitniyos on Pesach (also too many to list individually, so click here for this list).

Enjoy those older posts, as I don't really have much to add to them at this time, except that, when it comes to kitniyos and second day of yom tov, I AM finding more and more people who agree with me. Is there something reason aside from "mesorah" preventing us from getting rid of the chaff? It's really interesting that silly things that get added can stay on, but they can never be dropped. Did I tell of my latest discovery? It's about saying the bracha of Ga'al Yisrael before Shemoneh Esrei in Shacharis.

Most shuls (non-Lubavitch, of course) in which I've davened, if not all them, the Shliach Tzibur ends the bracha of Ga'al Yisrael preceding the Shacharis Shemoneh Esrei quietly in order to prevent one from saying Amen so that the congregation can segue directly into Shemoneh Esrei without a hefsek (any stop for other words or even a breath).

Here's what I found out yesterday: Apparently, this is a relatively "new" innovation and most poskim say one should not do this. Some say the Amen is NOT a hefsek, others say the congregation should just say the bracha with the Shliach Tzibur and end at the same time he does.

Strangely, I always thought this was just common-sense practice. Pretty much every shul I've been to in the last twenty-two years (again, NOT including Chabad) follows this practice and I'd NEVER heard it was wrong, but it really is.

So, a "new" minhag sets in, and most people practice it even though it's wrong. I'd like to see them try to get rid of it. Good luck with that. Another fifty or a hundred years, and it'll be Halacha.

Well, that's my rant for now. As Arnold would say: I'll be back... I've lots to say, especially about my deceased (thank God) father and about my mom, who has finally moved to town and is living about two blocks from now.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Now This is Just Downright WEIRD!

Friday, March 20, 2009

War Crimes Committed by Jews?

U.N. rights envoy sees Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

Funny how all during the operation, Israel showed quite clearly and the reporting was quite clear that Hamas cowards were hiding behind civilians and using those civilians as human shields. Yet, ISRAEL is accused of committing war crimes.

Strange how some guy calling on the Geneva Conventions, put forth in a city in Switzerland, a country that remained "neutral" during World War II, would say something this. Strange that the Swiss, or the world in general, for that matter, didn't really seem to care about the human rights' violations of Jews in Europe during World War II. You know, that little thing called the Holocaust, six years of pure hell during which six million Jews were murdered simply because they were Jews, and so many who were tortured and treated worse than animals in test labs, starved, and forced into slave labor.

Oh. I forgot. We Jews just aren't human, so we have no human rights TO violate.

Please, world, forgive my presumption. I forgot for a moment and thought we Jews WERE humans who, in Israel, decided to we should defend ourselves against daily multiple rocket attacks that put thousands of men, women, and children in danger EVERY BLOODY DAY. Oh, but like I said THAT'S Ok. After all, it's JUST a bunch of Jews.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

DISH Network: REALLY Desperate to Retain Customers...

Well, my mom is moving to our town to be near us, her son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren. My mom and I spent part of the morning turning off/canceling services. There was no problem when we told them my dad had died and my mom was leaving. When we got to DISH Network, we got a bit of a surprise. We got them on the phone and told them we needed to cancel the service. The only name on the account is my father's and the only phone number on the account is an already disconnected number, one that was canceled back in November 2008 when my father made the mistake of buying the Magic Jack (never EVER buy that stupid thing - it is TERRIBLE!!!). Oh, and of course, both times I spoke to them, we all know damn well I did NOT speak to someone in the US...

Here's about how conversation #1 went:

Me: Hi. I'm calling to cancel my father's account. He passed away and my mom is moving out of state. She's here on the line with me. There is no forwarding address. Please come and pick up the equipment.

DISH: Is your mom the Executor of the estate?

Mom: Yes.

DISH: We need the paperwork stating this in order for us to cancel the account.

Me: She doesn't have the paperwork available and she has no access to a fax machine. Please just cancel the account.

DISH: We can't do that, sir.

Me: Let's try this again. My mom is leaving the house this Friday. There is no forwarding address. Are you willing to just leave the equipment and keep the service running?

DISH: Yes. We cannot cancel the account without the paperwork.

Me: Ok. I guess you'll just keep billing an empty house. Have a good day!


Having told my wife about this conversation, she insisted I try again in order to avoid any possible future problems. She suggested I mention my father had passed away and we'd like to give them their equipment back and how did they want to handle it? So, I called again...

Conversation #2:

DISH: How can I help you.

Me: Hi. My father passed away and we'd like to return the equipment. My mom will be moving out of the house this Friday. When would you like to come pick up the equipment?

DISH: Well, we'd need to see a death certificate.

Me: I'm real sorry, but I don't have it and my mom does not have access to a fax.

DISH: Can you mail it?

Me: No. You don't need my dad's death certificate and we're not mailing it. Please come pick up the equipment.

DISH: Well, we can't do that, sir.

Me: Let me speak to a manager, please.

Manager: Hello. I've been briefed and we simply can't cancel the account without the death certificate.

Me: Listen. The account is under my deceased father's name. No one else's. The number you have is already disconnected. I'm just trying to do the right thing here and make sure you guys aren't out your very expensive equipment.

Manager: I'm sorry, but we must follow the security guidelines.

Me: Ok, let's try this again. My mom's leaving the house Friday and is never going back. The equipment is there now. It will be inaccessible as of Friday. Will you pick up the equipment as of Friday? Yes or no.

Manager: Well, sir, we simply can't cancel the account, blah blah blah blah blah.

Me: My question requires a yes or no answer. Will you come by Friday? Yes or no.

Manager: No, sir.

Me: Ok. No problem. I just wanted on record we DID try to return your equipment and you refused to take it. Just out of curiosity, what happens now? Will you simply keep the service going indefinitely? To whom will you be sending the bill? Will it eventually go to collections? From whom will you collect?

Manager: Well, we'd collect from your fath--

Me: Uh huh. But he's not alive any longer. So, then what?

Manager: Well it would eventually just get written off.

Me: So, you'd rather it went through all that, cost you guys for time and labor, rather than just cancel now?

Manager: Well, sir, we just can't cancel the account.

Me: Well, then, I guess we have nothing more to discuss. I'M not liable for the account. My MOM'S not liable for the account, so good luck with that and have a great day!

Manager: Thank you, sir. You have a nice day too.

Hang up.

Seriously? Are they THAT desperate to retain customers? Is it a thing about having customers on the books, or something? In any case, my mom's not leaving a forwarding address and isn't on the account anyway. So much for that!

And that's what you get when you outsource. People who simply aren't even allowed to think outside the box and who cost businesses more money.

I Don't Usually Laud Republicans...

But this is DEFINITELY the headline of the day:

Grassley to AIG Execs: Resign or Commit Suicide
The article goes on to say:
Senator Charles Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, made his comments on the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, radio station WMT on Monday.
"The first thing that would make me feel a little bit better toward them (is) if they'd follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say, I'm sorry, and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide," Grassley said.

"And in the case of the Japanese," he added, "they usually commit suicide before they make any apology."
Totally awesome! Maybe there IS some hope the Republicans will come around and start doing good for the American people.

Or, more likely, the Grassley's comments were made to deflect blame FROM the Republicans...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Oh, Good Lord. Here We Go Again. MUST She Speak Nationally? Really?

Oh, joy. Failin' Palin gets to open her big mouth on a national level AGAIN to prove, just one last time, how incredibly stupid, unintelligent, and ignorant she really is. Whoopee.

Palin Gets Senate-House GOP Keynote
Republicans are still pushing Sarah Palin's star power.
Palin will deliver the keynote address at the annual Senate-House GOP dinner to be held on June 8 at the Washington Convention Center, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas) and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) announced today.

“Gov. Palin has quickly emerged as one of the most popular and recognizable faces in the Republican Party, and we are honored to have her deliver the keynote address at the Senate-House dinner,” Cornyn said.

The dinner is one of the marquee events for the campaign committees each year, and Republicans are hoping that Palin's presence will be a huge draw.

"Gov. Palin’s conservative values, commendable achievements in Alaska and the sheer energy she personifies make her one of the most compelling visionaries of our party," Sessions said.

Funniest news about her lately is that Bristol, surprise surprise, broke up with Levi. Wow. THERE'S a shocker! I must say, aside from it being lucky for us in general McCain did NOT win the election, thus putting Failin's Palin in a position of power, it's lucky for Bristol Failin' Palin lost. Otherwise, the poor girl would have been stuck in a completely inappropriate marriage and would have been miserable...

Well, Faith and Begorra! It's That Time of Year Again!!!

And it wouldn't be complete without the Muppets rendition of Danny Boy!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Shouldn't This Automatically Disqualify Coleman from Being a Senator and from Pursuing His Case Against Al Franken?

From Electoral-vote.com:

Former senator Norm Coleman suddenly has something new to worry about, in addition to possibly losing his election contest with Democrat Al Franken: how to fund his likely appeals. In January, his Website, where people can contribute to his legal defense fund, crashed and hackers stole the credit card numbers of his contributors. Coleman didn't tell his contributors that their credit card numbers had been exposed, which is probably a violation of state law. At the very least, this event will make it harder for him to fund appeals if he loses the election contest.
One can only hope..

Sometimes Those Germans Are Just TOO Orderly...

Of course, that's what got six million Jews and five million other "various" (gays, Gypsies, etc) murdered during WWII:

Math Whiz, Dead for 450 Years, Gets TV Bill

BERLIN (Reuters) – A German mathematician who died 450 years ago has been sent a letter demanding that he pay long-overdue television license fees, residents at his former address said on Wednesday.

Germany's GEZ broadcast fee collection office sent the bill to the last home address of Adam Ries, an algebra expert who bought the house in 1525. A club in his honor was set up at the property four centuries later.

"We received a letter saying 'To Mr Adam Ries' on it, with the request to pay his television and radio fees," said Annegret Muench, who now heads the club.

Muench returned the letter to the GEZ with a note explaining the request had come too late because Ries had died in 1559, centuries before the invention of television and radio. She nonetheless received a reminder a few weeks later.

This was not the first time the GEZ had sent a bill to those in the afterlife. Last year, a school named after poet Friedrich Schiller received a reminder asking him to declare all radios and televisions in his home and pay the corresponding fees.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I Get the Feeling Michael Steele Is Just NOT Going to Last Very Much Longer as the Chairman of the RNC

Steele choice gaffe sparks GOP revolt - POLITICO.com

It seems every time we turn around, Steele is making another mistake that is throwing the Republican Party into even MORE turmoil. Not a bad thing, mind you. I'm starting to wonder if this guy is actually a mole hired by the Democrats to completely demoralize the RNC.

Again, that wouldn't necessarily be a BAD thing... :)

Lex Luthor Asks for Bailout...

Damn! Guy Should Have Gotten a Medal!!!

Headline of the day:

Iraqi Who Threw Shoes at Bush Jailed for Three Years

Blaming the Clinton in the Late 1990s for the Current Crisis, Especially the Housing Crisis, Just Doesn't Hold Water...

Here's why.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Breaking News from the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC)!!!

Heh heh. Boy, wouldn't THIS be embarrassing if it were true! Happy Purim, one and all!!!

BREAKING NEWS: Rush Limbaugh Converts to Judaism

It has just been reported that Rush Limbaugh wants to become a Member of the Tribe. Limbaugh announced last night that he would convert to Judaism.

In the spirit of tikkun olam, Limbaugh also proclaimed that he wanted nothing more than to see President Barack Obama succeed as the 44th President of the United States. President Obama is the only man I know who has the ability to truly repair the world, Limbaugh said.

"In a post-partisan gesture of good will, we welcome Mr. Limbaugh into the Jewish community," said Ira N. Forman, Executive Director of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC). "We applaud his support for our President and commend him for suspending his radio show on Shabbat."

JTA is reporting that Jewish Democrats are already forming lines in the street in anticipation of being able to participate in Limbaughs full entry into the covenant of Abraham.



Join NJDC Online:


Emor Me'At Va'Aseh Harbeh - Argument Against the Status Quo

Last week, DovBear talked about an article by Rabbi Yaakov Feiman for VosIzNeias. Feitman wrote this article in response to another VosIzNeias that sang the praises of the wonderful Yoatzot Halacha program, founded by Rabbanit Henkin of Nishmat, in Jerusalem, Israel. Since its inception, the Yoatzot Halacha program has become quite popular and very international. In short, the Yoatzot Halacha program trains women (married, only) in Hilchos Niddah. A woman who has a sensitive and personal question and who is uncomfortable speaking to a [male] rabbi has the choice to call a Yoetzet Halacha and get advice from her. If the Yoetzet cannot answer the question, she refers it to a supervising rabbi. Very importantly, the Yoatzot NEVER PASKIN HALACHA. This it NOT their purview. They can advise, and they WILL refer and defer to a supervising rabbi. The benefit of this, again, is that the questioner need NOT speak to a male about a very sensitive issue.

This program is wonderful and important for many reasons. Most importantly, it allows women with niddah questions to be comfortable asking those questions rather than allow them to go unasked, thus possibly violating niddah restrictions. Many of these women would rather NOT ask a male and go about their business than discuss these issues with a man. This program is saving hundreds, at the very least, if not thousands, from transgressing some very serious Jewish law, even Torah law (as in, isurei Oraisa, rather than isurim d'Rabbanan).

Feitman, in his article, is completely ineloquent in his argument. He is emotional and illogical. DovBear made several valid points (Tzuras Hadaf, learning at a shtender, etc). Feitman also made the old and fallacious Rebbetzin argument:

There is, however, a female player in all this, who has surprisingly been left out of the process. This is the rebbetzin. For many centuries, women who preferred to speak to another woman approached a truly trusted advisor—the rabbi’s wife. She will be familiar with all the contextual facts mentioned earlier and is in the best position to transmit these details to the rav.
Except, the Rebbetzin WON'T necessarily know what she needs to know. Also, more importantly, going to the Rebbetzin takes away the anonymity, at least where the Rebbetzin is concerned. While much of the argument FOR the Yoatzot Halacha is the discomfort of a woman going to a male to discuss sensitive issues, it's just as much about the anonymity, which would include the Rebbetzin.

So, what does this have to do with the all-important "Status Quo" all the Yeshivish/Chareidi rabbis and their adherents claim is so important? Everything.

Everything because, as with any change that comes to Judaism, one within the confines of halacha (as is the case with the Yoatzot) or outside those confines, the Chareidi/Yeshivish community will rail against that change and do its best to prevent it.

The problem is, change is inevitable. Nothing, not in ancient history, and not in modern history, has ever been static. Time is fluid, and it brings those changes, and the beauty of Torah is that God knows this, and made the Torah a fluid, flexible document that allows for those changes. The problems begin happening when the changes happen but the "rabbinic authorities" want nothing to do with it and want things to remain as they had been, in their eyes, for thousands of years. Of course, this is just not true.

Change has come, and Torah allowed it, despite protestations to those changes and despite the denials that those changes have ever even taken place. Change has come geographically, economically, and technologically. Change has come educationally. And these changes always challenged AND changed the status quo.

Imagine if Sarah Schnur's idea of Bais Yaakov had been shot down. Many gedolim of the day were against it. Most prominent among them was the Chofetz Chaim. He later changed his tune, but he was initially against it. Why? Because it disrupted the status quo. And somehow, I don't think any Chareidi today would entertain the thought of closing down all the Bais Yaakov institutions and sending the girls back home to learn to sew dresses and cook.

Here are a couple you don't need to imagine: Jewish emancipation took place in the mid-18th century. Change came. Jews wanted less RABBINIC restrictions and chumrahs. More importantly, they wanted to live within the society in which they found themselves unexpectedly welcome (or, at least, more welcome than before and able to get educations and have a wider range of choices of where to live and how to make a living). The rabbis railed bitterly against this. They clamped down even harder. And you know what came of it? Reform Judaism and secular Judaism. Judaism that was anything BUT Judaism, that abandoned not only what was unnecessary, but also actual halacha and Torah life. They just chucked it all. Result: About 90%-95% of Jews are no longer Torah/halacha observant. Do I blame them? Hell, no.

Example two one needn't imagine: The rabbis had a chance to fix a big part of their screw-up with Reform Judaism. Along came the Zionists and asked rabbis like Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch, to become involved and help them create mass emigrations to Eretz Yisrael. The rabbis, led by Hirsch, said no. Why? Because they didn't want it to seem like they supported a secular movement, ignoring the chance to DE-secularize that movement to a large extent. But the change was coming! And Israel is now a mostly secular state because the rabbis would not become involved. Another result: About one hundred years later, six MILLION Jews, many of whom might NOT have been in Europe had their ancestors been afforded the chance by the leading Orthodox rabbis of 18th century Europe to become involved in Zionism and make Aliyah, were murdered. Nothing to imagine there.

What's interesting is, that despite exhortation not to deviate RIGHT or left from the Torah, the rabbis are ALWAYS happy to ADD chumrahs and make up new halacha, but would NEVER entertain the thought of getting rid of any of them (*AHEM* KITNIYOS! *AHEM*). But what are THOSE additions, if not change itself? In other words, when it's convenient for them, change is great. When it affords them greater control, it's wonderful. But when it lessens that control or maybe threatens their authority or maybe even their manhood, that's no good and it's unacceptable.

The Yoatzot Halacha program is just a natural development that is taking place at the right time. It helps so many people, men and women alike, avoid making mistakes with one of the three big sins (murder, idol worship, and Gilui Arayos - inappropriate relations - of which sleeping with a woman who is niddah is certainly one). I don't think that's such a bad thing, and it is CERTAINLY more important than learning at a shtender.

What these rabbis need to do is stop worrying so much about these changes and start embracing many of them, especially ones that are well within the purview of halachic Judaism and helps so many people avoid, well, living in sin. Perhaps if they stopped talking so much against organizations and programs like this (Emor Me'At) and instead opened their minds and hearts to some really amazing concepts, such as the Yoatzot Halacha, they'd realize the status quo isn't as wonderful as they think after all and will perhaps support these wonderful and infinitely helpful organizations (Aseh Harbeh).

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Square Root Day

It's a bit late in the day, but today is "Square Root Day" because it's 03/03/09 (get it? 3x3=9). It's funny that I was thinking that this morning while writing a check and putting the date on it. Then I found the following article:

3/3/09: Math fans to celebrate Square Root Day

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – Dust off the slide rules and recharge the calculators. Square Root Day is upon us.

The math-buffs' holiday, which only occurs nine times each century, falls on Tuesday — 3/3/09 (for the mathematically challenged, three is the square root of nine).

"These days are like calendar comets, you wait and wait and wait for them, then they brighten up your day — and poof — they're gone," said Ron Gordon, a Redwood City teacher who started a contest meant to get people excited about the event.

The winner gets, of course, $339 for having the biggest Square Root Day event.

Gordon's daughter even set up a Facebook page — one of a half-dozen or so dedicated to the holiday — and hundreds of people had signed up with plans to celebrate in some way. Celebrations are as varied: Some cutroot vegetables into squares, others make food in the shape of a square root symbol.

The last such day was five years ago, Feb. 2, 2004, which coincided with Groundhog Day. The next is seven years away, on April 4, 2016.

I know it's really kinda nerdy, and I'm certainly no math expert, but it's still pretty cool!

So, that said, HAPPY SQUARE ROOT DAY!!!

GASP!!! OH, NO!!! A Two-State Solution?! Why, That's UNTHINKABLE!!! Only a DEMOCRAT Would Come Up With an Idea Like THAT!!!

Oh boy! There go those horrible liberal Democrats, making noise about a two-state solution in Israel.

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Hillary Clinton, on her first visit to Israel as secretary of state, said on Tuesday that establishing a Palestinian state was in the best interests of the Jewish state and a two-state solution was "inescapable."

"We happen to believe that moving toward a two-state solution is in Israel's best interests," she told a news conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. She also said: "It is our assessment that eventually, the inevitability of working toward a two-state solution is inescapable."

A Republican would NEVER expect something like this from Israel, right?

Wrong. Remember Bush's "Road Map to Peace?" Yeah, the one that outlined a several year process to Palestinian statehood, recognition of Israel, cessation of hostilities and peace with Israel. And it was a timeline that was supposed to be completed while BUSH, the Idiot Governor from Texas, was still in stolen office.

But, the frummies out there, all those right wing nut jobs, are simply going to conveniently forget that Republicans also call for a two state solution, including John McCain during his presidential campaign in 2008.

In fact, as I've said many times, both here and vocally, NO presidential candidate is ever really going to say anything but the following three things about Israel and the "Palestinians": There must be a two state solution, they have to live side-by-side, and they must do so in peace and security, meaning a cessation of all violence.

But, mark my words. Now, the Frummies, and probably the RZs as well, are going to condemn Hillary and the Democrats as Palestinian lovers and Israel haters, and sing the praises of the Republican (RWNJ Christian) party's love for Israel and the Jews, a love, by the way, that's completely fake and only for their own purposes.

And remember, I myself am completely against a two-state solution. For me, it goes well beyond party lines, especially in this case, where both parties actually agree that there SHOULD be a two-state solution.

Well, anyway, that's my rant of the day.