Sunday, May 31, 2009

Would Rav Azulai tell us to listen to random meshuganas?

Dreaming of Moshiach has an interesting post, which would likely be positive in the general case, but which I react negatively to due to the context of the rest of her posts. This time, rather than citing random crazy dreamers or exploiters of the disabled, she cites a genuine kabbalist, though a deceased one, Rabbi Avraham Azulai. His message is about the benefit which will accrue to those few who make it to Israel, who made themselves not care about materialism or physical safety. She does not explain why she is citing it, but her point seems to be that whether or not the Tzaddik Nistar is right, people should be in Israel anyway, so it is a good thing; or else that it is not a righteous rejoinder that people should be concerned about parnassa.

Let us first analyze the words of Rabbi Azulai, zatzal. He wrote:
Know, that it is an accepted tradition in our hands, that on the day that King Mashiach will come with the ingathering of the exiles to the Land of Israel, there will be found in the Land 7000 of the children of Israel. On this same day, the dead of the Land of Israel shall be restored to life.


All the children of the ingathered exiles, with worry in their hearts and anguish in their souls, will cry out to King Mashiach. They ask, we also are the nation of the Children of Israel like them. Why have they merited to be spiritual beings in body and soul, and not us? Why are we less?

The Mashiach shall answer them saying, "The character of the Holy One, Blessed be He is already known and famous; He gives to each one 'measure for measure'. These people also dwelled outside of the Land, and after great effort they succeeded to come to the Land of Israel, in order to merit a purified soul. They cared not for their physical or material well being. They came by sea and by land, and were not dissuaded by the dangers of the sea or of being robbed along their journey. They suffered under cruel regimes, all for the sake of the essence of their spirit and soul. Therefore, have they become complete spiritual beings, measure for measure.

However all of you, who had the ability to come to the Land of Israel, as they did, were discouraged over concern for your finances. You were worried about your physical safety and your money. These, you made to be the principle things in your lives, and not your spirit and soul. Therefore have you remained physical beings".
Now, it is interesting that he wrote this in Chesed LeAvraham. He wrote this when already in Eretz Yisrael. But why did he leave his native Fez? Not because things were so great there. To cite Jewish Encyclopedia:
The expulsion of the Moors from Spain brought a great number of the exiles to Morocco, and these newcomers caused a civil war from which the country in general and the Jews in particular suffered greatly. Abraham Azulai, in consequence of this condition of affairs, left his home for the Land of Israel and settled in Hebron.
So his own decision to make aliyah did not to be one of abandoning physical and material well-being for Israel, where this was lacking. Absent the suffering in Morocco, it is quite possible he would have lived out his days there.

What about the 7000 Jews in Israel for which Rav Azulai has a tradition? That is, he said:
Know, that it is an accepted tradition in our hands, that on the day that King Mashiach will come with the ingathering of the exiles to the Land of Israel, there will be found in the Land 7000 of the children of Israel. 
This tradition made sense back in the early 1600s when Rav Azulai wrote Chessed LeAvraham. Indeed, 7000 was close to the number of Jews in Israel at that time. See the following chart, courtesy of

(Note: The figures for the Arab population include both Muslims and Christians. Christians were about 8-10 percent of the total, but for our purpose it's easier to just view them together.)

YearArab PopulationJewish Population

Nowadays, has his "tradition" been shown to be incorrect? He spoke of 7000 individual Jews in Israel. There are now many millions of Jews in Israel. (And don't give me that sinas chinam garbage about most Jews being erev rav.) As such, it seems strange to try to apply his words here. Also he speaks of them as suffering under cruel regimes in Israel, not applicable today.

Are the people who are listening to the lunatic whom Nava is endorsing among this select 7000, who disregarded material and physical concerns and are coming to Israel regardless? It would seem to me to be the opposite. They are being frightened about their physical and material survival in the US -- that there will be nuclear attacks on the US, and that the economy will collapse here, and that the only place to survive and prosper is in Israel. So how can you apply Rav Avraham Azulai's words to the present situation?

Meanwhile, Rav Azulai is deceased. He is not assessing the present-day situation; and he is not assessing the claims of the meshugaim; and he is not present to make sure his words are applied correctly. Meanwhile, there are plenty of holy rabbis who are alive today, and can give counsel, for or against. Consult your local Orthodox rabbi if you want, and make sure he is well-aware of your present situation in life.

My own position is that making aliyah is a good thing. However, it is a major life change and must be done with care, so that it is successful. Frantically running off because of the words of a lunatic is a good way of making it more likely that the aliyah won't last -- because of unsettled finances, not having a good and secure job lined up, not being prepared for Israeli language and culture, and being severely disappointed and disillusioned when the apocalypse fails to surface. Also, there are situations in which aliyah is not the optimal solution for one's spiritual needs. And halacha recognizes this.

If you desire to make aliyah, make a five-year plan. During those years, take an ulpan; connect with an aliyah organization, go to Israeli job fairs, check out the real estate market here and in Israel; research places in Israel which would be a good cultural fit; prepare your children for the transition, make certain that they have schools in Israel which would meet their needs. These just off the top of my head.

And most important, go because it is a great place to live Jewishly, not because some false and hysterical prophet or prophetess shouted that the sky is falling.

An insistence upon eggs for eruv tavshilin

I overheard an interesting halachic question on erev Shavuos. Someone did not have matza for eruv tavshilin, and she wanted to know if she could use challah instead. The answer was yes, but I could see why it is a question. Certain common practices in Judaism have been ritualized, and even if not, the common setup in one's home is often to use particular items. And if all one sees is matzah and egg to make an eruv tavshilin, then one has a question whether other items can be used; and even if other items would satisfy the halachic requirements, if one does not know the specific requirements, how is one to know what would fit the bill?

Nowadays, a fairly common practice is to use a hard-boiled egg for the cooked dish. This would appear to be an innovation. As the Aruch Hashulchan writes, in Orach Chaim siman 527, seif 13,
"And know that most of the world places an eruv tavshilin using cooked meat. And when Yom Tov falls out on Thursday and Friday, such that they place the eruv tavshilin on Wednesday, in most instances it {the meat} becomes spoiled by Shabbos, and the eruv is thus nullified. And therefore, there is upon each individual to be careful upon this. And therefore, we are accustomed to place {as eruv tavshilin} a cooked egg. For an egg does not spoil {as quickly}. And the common folk are not experts in this, and many times we have seen that when they go on Shabbat to take the cooked meat upon which they established their eruv tavshilin, it is very spoiled, and they cast it outside. And therefore, there is to be extremely careful in this."
This seems to be his innovation, where the majority of the world does not do this. The same appears in the Ben Ish Chai (from about the same time), parshat Tzav, letter Aleph, but not in the beginning of Tzav, but under the halachos of Eruv Tavshilin:
"One is required to make an eruv {tavshilin} with bread and a cooked dish... And the cooked dish, it is good to make it out of hard boiled eggs, for these last in these {geographical} locations which are hot, while meat does not last in the time of heat for two nights and two days. For if Yom Tov falls out on Thursday and Friday, there needs to remain a piece of meat for two days and two nights, which is until the night of Shabbos. And therefore, it is good to make it from boiled eggs, for these last and do not spoil."
I think it very interesting that many people would wonder whether something other than an egg can be used for eruv tavshilin, since to deviate would go against common practice. But meanwhile, common practice used to be cooked meat. And in general, many different sorts of cooked dishes were mentioned and discussed in halachic sources.

Nowadays, there would seem to be no need for this halachic innovation. In their times and places, they did not have refrigerators, and so meat would not last that long. However, we can refrigerate meat, and we commonly do so.

I did not see any mention of specifically matzah over challah -- all that is mentioned is pas. Of course, without seeing any source inside, we could suggest all sorts of reasons this is better. My fear in doing it is that people would take an attributed yet false reason and use it to maintain the requirement long after it is no longer necessary. (I think this happens in other places in halacha.) But some suggestions:
  1. Just as eggs can last that long, matzah does not become stale over a three-day Yom Tov. (We could enclose challah in plastic bags, though.) And especially if one wants to use the same eruv for Succos and Shemini Atzeres.
  2. Indeed, common practice for an eruv {/shituf} for carrying on Shabbos is with a matzah, because it lasts all year and you need not replace it from week to week. Perhaps it got transferred from one to the other.
  3. As a heker so that someone notices it when cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos.
  4. As a heker so that someone does not eat it early.
  5. It needs to be a matza for Pesach, and it extended from there to other chagim.
  6. Machine matza is somewhat cheaper than a challah roll.
Note: Not intended halacha lemaaseh. Consult your local Orthodox rabbi for any practical questions.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Posts so far for Shavuot

  1. Sleeping on the night of Shavuot -- some sources. According to midrash, according to Ibn Ezra, what did the Bnei Yisrael do? Whatever they did, was it "bad"? Even if so, need we somehow "fix" this? (This last point is not addressed in the post.)

  2. In the beginning of Shadal's vikuach, he opposes the kabbalistic custom staying up all night saying a tikkun on another chag. Which makes it appropriate reading material for tonight. Here is the first chapter of Shadal's Vikuach, as a Google site, so that it is all one printable page. Check it out here.
  1. Kabbalah coopts Shavuot -- in at least three ways
  1. Why converts are great
  2. How Naomi Proposes Yibbum For אשת אחיו שלא היה בעולמו and אחין מן האם
  3. Naomi as prototype of believed woman
  4. Naomi: The Lord has *testified* against me?
  5. Did Boaz perform customary maamar?
  6. Ruth and Naomi's names. And more on Ruth's name.
  7. Cross-dressing Ruth and Naomi
  1. What I plan to learn Shavuot night. Shadal's Vikuach. And now I have posted up much (though not all) of it in translation. See for 2009, though.
  1. The blemishes of Israel disappearing at Har Sinai.
  2. Ruth, the first feminist?
  1. Bedibbur Echad

Interesting Posts and Articles #150

  1. At Israelity Bites, about the marriage instruction manual for a compulsory marriage class in Yerushalayim.

  2. At Skeptoid, how to argue with a "creationist." Useful. They are basically responses about evolution, which frum rationalists often debase with frum irrationalists.

  3. Being discussed on other blogs, the Lakewood Scoop on a woman receiving a note that her nees were not covered in back. The comments are fascinating, though at least one is a spoof. See it also discussed on DovBear. Also at the Lakewood Scoop, a video on Tomchei Shabbos in high gear.

  4. Dreaming of Moshiach, or someone under her name, posts her nonsense at some forum which seems to be for crazy conspiracy theorists. There, she gave a 7 day extension, to June 1st. The reaction is interesting. Also, someone posting her stuff at a moshiach forum. See the reaction there.

  5. Protecting children from touching rocks, or potato clocks.

  6. Something to learn on Shavuos night, if you want. Shadal's Vikuach, in which he argues with the authenticity of Kabbalah. As I posted it before, in blog form, it is clunky. So instead, I made the first chapter into a Google site, so that it is all one printable page. Check it out here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Last Call for the apocalypse?

So Nava, of Dreaming of Moshiach, persists in her claims of an apocalypse, despite Rosh Chodesh Sivan passing without the world ending. Now, she supports herself with three sources: current events (which are always available), her interpretation of a Zohar (where she has offered bad misinterpretations of Zohars in the past), and the words of an "autistic" (or rather his facilitator). The post is titled Last Call. If only! But she will surely continue her nonsense a month from now, when her delayed apocalypse also fails to materialize. This is good, as

In terms of the words of the autistics, she cites Binyomin Golden as saying:
"Open your eyes! Don’t ask me whether to come to Israel or not. Don’t ask me how can you come without money? Don’t ask me how will you get a job? Those who trust Hashem will be sure that Hashem will provide. Let me remind you that according to the nevuos [Zecharia 13:8] two thirds of the world will be destroyed – but not Eretz Yisrael.”
There are two glaring problems with this "support". The first is that the autistics are warning of an apocalypse soon, but they are against the fixed time she has set. See this post on parshablog, where I pointed out that the other autistic says:
Q. Dear Daniel, Thank you so much for the opportunity to ask and thank you for your holy work. My question: A date was given of Rosh Chodesh Sivan 2009 for the "deadline" when all Jews should leave America or it will be "too late" for them afterwards.


Will there be a warning before the true deadline?
A. Of course. It can't be after the deadline. Nobody really knows the deadline. I know it's soon.
So they are not in favor of the deadline, and they do not consider her "warning" to be the true warning. So all their purported "support" falls flat.

Secondly, who cares what the autistics said? They are just as guilty of giving over false prophecy as the Tzadik Nistar! But for some reason, people don't remember, and still trust in them! Here is Ben Golden, in September 2007 predicting the apocalypse on Rosh Hashana. The Greatest Rosh Hashana in history:
If the people do not repent before Rosh Hashanah...

This is going to be the biggest Rosh Hashanah in history, the most significant in all of history. If the people do not repent this Rosh Hashanah, woe to everyone. Woe to all those who think this is a joke, woe to all those who don't want the extreme side of Judaism, woe to all those that think they can live in both worlds; in the materialistic world as well as the spiritual world. Woe to the Jewish people, the chosen nation, beloved to Hashem.

This is truly the Day of Judgment; the Day of Judgment for the whole world, as it is every year, but this year, we are coming upon the greatest change ever, since the exile from Egypt.

So what if one navi sheker supports another? Hopefully, a month from now, people will not only lose faith in Nava's predictions, but in the other crazies as well, such as the autistics and the gematria scholars. One can hope, but I am pessimistic...

Kos shel bracha: should we adopt it today?

Note: Not intended halacha lemaaseh. And this is off-the-cuff, rather than as well-researched as I would like.

The Aruch Hashulchan writes that it is a machlokes whether bentching requires a kos, but that based on people's actions, we can see that we pasken that it is not required. But, even according to those who say that birchas hamazon does not require a kos, it still is mitzvah min hamuvchar. The reason the common practice is not to do it is that the common folk were poor. But if someone is able to afford it, it certainly is meritorious. On the basis of this, my father-in-law is considering doing just this, at least some of the time.

My gut feeling is that one should not. This is quite possibly due to my contrarian nature. But I believe that one can assemble a valid counterargument.

Let us turn to one of those who says it is not required. He makes no explicit mention of min hamuvchar. The Rif writes, on Pesachim:
{Bavli:} Ravina said to Rava {our Gemara: Rav Chanan said to Rava}: We may derive from this {requirement of the third cup over which birkat haMazon is said} that the blessing {of birkat haMazon} requires a cup {of wine}.
He said to him: The Sages instituted four cups symbolizing freedom. since it is so, let us perform a mitzvah with each one.
Click on the image to make it large enough to read. The implication of citing this gemara as far as this is that he rules like Rava, and birkat hamazon does not require a cup of wine.

The Ran, on the side, notes this. Click on the image to the right and start reading three lines down from the large dark word Gemara in the Ran. He points out that this is the implication of the Rif, but that it is still a mitzvah min hamuvchar, because elsewhere there are all sorts of maalot tovot are said regarding the kos shel beracha.

In fact, we can even cite the Rif himself, citing the gemara, in Berachot. Thus, we have:

Rabbi Zera cited Rabbi Abahu, and some say it was taught in a brayta: 10 things were said regarding a cup of blessing {of Birchat HaMazon}: It requires to be rinsed and washed, it must be undiluted and full, it requires crowning and wrapping, it must be taken up with both hands and placed in the right hand, it must be raised a handbreadth from the ground,

{Brachot 51a continued}
he must fix his eyes on it, and he must send it round to the members of his household.

Rabbi Yochanan said: We only have four: rinsing, washing, undiluted and full.
Rinsing - is done on the outside.
Washing - is done on the inside.
Undiluted - until the blessing on the land {HaAretz}, and in the blessing on the land he puts into it water, as we learn {tnan}: The Sages agree with Rabbi Eliezer etc. {that is requires water for Grace after meals}
Full - For Rabbi Yochanan said: Anyone who blesses on a full cup of blessing {over grace after meals} is given inheritance without bounds. As it states in Dvarim 33:23:

כג וּלְנַפְתָּלִי אָמַר--נַפְתָּלִי שְׂבַע רָצוֹן, וּמָלֵא בִּרְכַּת יְהוָה; יָם וְדָרוֹם, יְרָשָׁה.
23 And of Naphtali he said: O Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the LORD: possess thou the sea and the south. {S}
and Rabbi Yossi bar Rabbi Chanina said: he merits to inherit two worlds - both this world and the next - as it states יָם וְדָרוֹם, יְרָשָׁה.

Crowning - Rav Yehuda crowned it with students {he made them sit around him}.
Rav Chisda crowned it with cups.

(Rabbi Yochanan said: and undiluted. Rav Sheshet said: Only until HaAretz)

Wrapping - Rav Papa wrapped {himself in his robe} and sat and blessed.
Rav Ashi spread a kerchief over his head, and took it with both of his hands, for Rav Chanina bar Papa said: The verse states (in Tehillim 134:2):

ב שְׂאוּ-יְדֵכֶם קֹדֶשׁ; וּבָרְכוּ, אֶת-ה. 2 Lift up your hands to the sanctuary, and bless ye the LORD.
and he held it in his right hand.

Rabbi Chiyya bar Abba cited Rabbi Yochanan: The first ones {earlier students} asked: The left, may it support the right?
Rav Ashi said: Now that the first ones have not decided the question, we will conduct ourselves stringently.

{Brachot 51b}
And he lifts it from the ground a handsbreadth - Rav Acha bar Chanina said: For the verse states (in Tehillim 116:13)

יג כּוֹס-יְשׁוּעוֹת אֶשָּׂא; וּבְשֵׁם ה אֶקְרָא. 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD.
And he distributes to the people of his house as a gift - so that his wife may be blessed.

Rav Asi said: We may not speak over the cup of blessing {of Birchat HaMazon}. And Rav Asi said: We do not bless over the cup of punishment. What is the cup of punishment? Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak said: the second cup. And so said a brayta: One who drinks twice should not bless {upon it}, for it is stated in Amos 4:12:

יב לָכֵן, כֹּה אֶעֱשֶׂה-לְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל: עֵקֶב כִּי-זֹאת אֶעֱשֶׂה-לָּךְ, הִכּוֹן לִקְרַאת-אֱלֹקֶיךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל. 12 Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel; because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.
{as Rashi says: in pleasant and proper [nechonim] things, and not in matters of punishment.}

And he should fix his eyes on it - so that he does not divert his attention from it.
Why would the Rif cite all this lehalacha if it was not even mitzvah min hamuvchar? And why would the gemara lay all this out?

There are possible terutzim. For example, leaving aside what the Rif's particular position was, perhaps this was an old dispute. There was an practice of making birkat hamazon on a kos, and the dispute was whether this was required or not; and perhaps it went all the way back to Tannaim {if a brayta was being cited, rather than the amora from Eretz Yisrael, Rabbi Abahu}, or maybe it went back only to Amoraim. And all these practices accrued with the cup associated with birkat hamazon. Perhaps according to those that maintain that it does not require wine, that other gemara is not lehalacha.

What about within the Rif, though?

Maybe Rif mentions it because, although it is not required, where it is done -- for example on the seder night, or where someone is doing it anyway because they want after-dinner drinks -- they should do it in accordance with the respectful ritual that was set up for it. Thus, terutzim can be offered. I think it is not a trivial matter, and there is the danger of reading this position into Rishonim who never intended it, and into Amoraim who never intended it.

But I am not going to argue practically against the Ran (and Beis Yosef, and Meiri...) about this. Let us accept that it is min hamuvchar. There should be no question, then, that for those that can afford it, it would be a meritorious thing for them to make birkat hamazon on wine, as per the Aruch Hashulchan. Why should we not adopt this? Are there any drawbacks?

Off the cuff, I can come up with several drawbacks. Perhaps you will find them persuasive, and perhaps not.
  1. Distraction: Shmuel bar Abba knew how to juggle eight cups without spilling a drop, and this was a neat trick. But most people are not so adept. If I asked you to bentch while standing on one foot, and not tilting to either side, would you be able to concentrate with full kavanah on the words you were saying? In shiur, I heard that a "full" cup does not mean to the brim precisely, but even a bit under, which normal people would be considered a full cup, is a full cup. But some people maintain, for whatever reason, that it needs to be precisely to the brim, such that the slightest jiggle will spill wine. And the Zohar maintains that it must be held in a fairly unnatural position, in the palm of the hand with the five fingers facing up. Holding that cup and making sure not to spill will surely detract from many people's concentration. (This was perhaps not such an issue for the Amoraim, who may well not have filled it to the brim, and who did not yet have the Zohar.) As such, it is now a trade-off, rather than only positive.

  2. Kedei lehotzi milibam shel mekubbalim: While practically, halacha has been decided in favor of those Rishonim who maintain that the kos shel beracha is not required, the Zohar maintains that it is. And it is actually a three-way machlokes, in which the Zohar and a rishon or two maintains that kos shel bracha is only required where there is a zimmun, but not for a yachid. Practically speaking, I would guess this would only be implemented where there was a mezuman, in which case we are effectively adopting the Zohar.

    And I like the separation that presently exists between halacha and kabbalah, and think that adopting this custom in practice will pragmatically blur the lines, even if we are doing it for another cause.

    On the other hand, are we going to implement it for yechidim as well? That is going to lead to a lot more occassions of people drinking wine. The Jewish bus-driver, after eating his sandwich: will he drink a cup of wine?

  3. Rewriting history: As long as only a select few engaged in this, it was clear, historically speaking, how this dispute was determined. We determine that it is not halachically mandated. But people have a habit of forgetting the origin of common practices, and a hundred years down the line, I can well imagine that people will assume that the bracha is teuna a kos, like the Rishonim who maintain this. And that can have ramifications on other halachos in turn.

  4. Feature creep: Even if this is not the intent and guiding principle in this instance, because it is a straightforward application of an Aruch HaShulchan, I get the impression in the general case of a sociological trend in which new and old practices accrue. Part of this is people ignoring their mimetic tradition and searching old sefarim for new chumras or new practices. Also for sociological reasons, this adoption of new positions are only towards chumras, and of worrying about all the possible shitot.

    As a fence around this trend, it might be good to oppose any innovation of this type, especially where it is not a matter of required behavior but of purported min hamuvchar.

  5. Alchoholism: More instances in which Jews drink wine. This might not be as bad as people make it out to be.

    Associated, for kiddush, the host often makes kiddush and is motzi others. But what of an alchoholic guest? Can he now not be offered the honor of leading bentching?

  6. Dilution: This may not be how it was initially intended, but kos shel beracha has developed into something out of the ordinary, non-tadir, and thus a way of celebrating the special significance of an event. For example, sheva berachot. Will this dilute the psychological significance it has?

  7. Kedei shelo levayesh et mi sheAin lo: In the time of the gemara, wine was relatively cheap and plentiful, and it was the standard drink. (Though still there is discussion of paupers not able to even afford wine.) In the days of the Aruch Hashulchan, it was more expensive, and so his suggestion and approval was for the actions of the rich people who were able to afford it and thus honored birkat hamazon in this way.

    Nowadays, it is possibly somewhere in between. It is not cheap, like water or soda. But the standard of living has improved such that most people would be able to afford it, especially if it was only on occasions of zimmun, which would likely be Shabbos and Yom Tov meals, or for large families, dinner. As such, if we are to adopt the Aruch Hashulchan's suggestion, it would not just be the individuals whom everyone considered rich, such that there was no shame in not being able to adopt it. Rather -- and especially if cast as a chumra and hiddur -- it could easily become expected behavior of a large portion of our community. And there are those upon whom living Jewishly is already expensive -- those for whom yeshiva tuition is a real problem, and who are affected already by the price of kosher food. Is it really a good idea to make the "frum" standard even more expensive. And so some people will buy wine they cannot really afford to keep up with the Kohens, and others will be embarrassed when they do not do so.
These were off the top of my head. I am sure other trade-offs can easily be produced.

Once again, this is not halacha lemaaseh. But people in cyberspace and meatspace were wondering what could be the possible "harm."

Naso sources

by aliyah
rishon (Bamidbar 4:21)
sheni (4:38)
shelishi (5:1)
revii (5:11)
chamishi (7:1)
shishi (7:42)
shevii (7:72)
maftir (7:87)
haftara (Shofetim 13), with Kli Yakar, Ralbag, Malbim

by perek
perek 5 ; perek 6 ; perek 7

Judaica Press Rashi in English
Shadal (here and here)
Daat -- with Rashi, Ramban, Seforno, Ibn Ezra, Rashbam, Rabbenu Bachya, Midrash Rabba, Tanchuma+, Gilyonot
Gilyonot Nechama Leibovitz (Hebrew)
Tiferes Yehonasan from Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz
Chasdei Yehonasan -- not until Behaalosecha
Toldos Yitzchak Acharon, repeated from Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz -- not until Shlach
Even Shleimah -- from Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Ehrenreich
R' Saadia Gaon's Tafsir, Arabic translation of Torah (here and here)
The following meforshim at JNUL. I've discovered that if you click on the icon to rotate sideways, change to only black and white, select only the portion which is text, it is eminently readable on paper.
Ralbag (pg 292)
Chizkuni (112)
Abarbanel (280)
Shach (205)
Aharon ben Yosef the Karaite (192)

Daat, Rashi In Hebrew (perek 4)
Judaica Press Rashi in English and Hebrew
MizrachiMizrachi (on Rashi, 235)
Gur Aryeh (Maharal of Prague)
Siftei Chachamim
Berliner's Beur on Rashi
Commentary on Rashi by Yosef of Krasnitz
R' Yisrael Isserlin (on Rashi, 13)
Two supercommentaries on Rashi, by Chasdai Almosnino and Yaakov Kneizel
Rav Natan ben Shishon Shapira Ashkenazi (16th century), (JNUL, pg 122)
Levush HaOrah
Yeriot Shlomo (Maharshal)
Moda L'Bina (Wolf Heidenheim) -- not until Behaaloscha
Dikdukei Rashi
Mekorei Rashi (in Mechokekei Yehuda)
Yosef Daas
Nachalas Yaakov
Also see Mikraos Gedolos above, which has Rashi with Sifsei Chachamim

Daat, Ramban in Hebrew (perek 4)
R' Yitzchak Abohav's on Ramban (standalone and in a Tanach opposite Ramban)
Kesef Mezukak
Kanfei Nesharim
Rabbi Meir Abusaula (student of Rashba)

ibn ezra
Daat, Ibn Ezra in Hebrew (perek 4)
Mechokekei Yehudah (Daat)
Mechokekei Yehudah (HebrewBooks)
Mavaser Ezra -- not until Behaalosecha
R' Shmuel Motot (on Ibn Ezra, pg 41)
Ibn Kaspi's supercommentary on Ibn Ezra, different from his commentary (here and here)
Mekor Chaim, Ohel Yosef, Motot
Avi Ezer
Tzofnas Paneach
Ezra Lehavin
Also see Mikraos Gedolos above, which has Ibn Ezra with Avi Ezer

Targum Onkelos opposite Torah text
Targum Onkelos and Targum Pseudo-Yonatan in English
Shadal's Ohev Ger
Chalifot Semalot
Avnei Tzion -- two commentaries on Onkelos
Bei`urei Onkelos
Or Hatargum on Onkelos
Targum Yonatan
Commentary on Targum Yonatan and Targum Yerushalmi
Origen's Hexapla (JNUL)

Tanach with masoretic notes on the side
Commentary on the Masorah
Minchas Shai
Or Torah
Taamei Masoret
Masoret HaKeriah
Shiluv Hamasorot
Masoret HaBrit HaGadol
Rama (but based on alphabet, not parsha)
Vetus Testamentum

Midrash Rabba at Daat (4)
Midrash Tanchuma at Daat (4)
Bamidbar Rabba, with commentaries
Midrash Tanchuma with commentary of Etz Yosef and Anaf Yosef
Commentary on Midrash Rabba by R' Naftali Hirtz b'R' Menachem
Matat-Kah on Midrash Rabba
Nefesh Yehonasan by Rav Yonasan Eibeshutz

haftarah (Shofetim 13-2:25)
Haftarah in Gutnick Edition
Radak, Ralbag, Targum (pg 133)
Daat, which includes Yalkut Shimoni
Aharon ben Yosef the Karaite

Interesting Posts and Articles #149

  1. At Mystical Paths, When All Else Fails:
    He said that he just didn’t fell like it. “Look, I just want to go to the Wall and talk to G-d.” He was getting a little fed up with me, so I figured that I had better back off.

    “Fine,” I said, “but if you talk to G-d with tefillin on, your prayers will be louder.”

    “Let me go talk to G-d!”
    I agree with the second commenter there, but possibly to a larger extent. We have our sets modes of religiosity, and despite the Rebbe's endorsing of getting people to put on tefillin, at some point, harassing people to reach out to God in your way is counterproductive. Consider the statement that one should not make one's tefillah keva. Here was a secular fellow intending to pray to Hashem in a heartfelt personal communication. Making it into a "outreach" opportunity, even where he said once or twice that he was interested, and chanelling it into a particular form, such that his prayers would be purportedly "louder" -- I do not know that this is a good approach.

  2. PaleoJudaica on a new theory on the introduction of megillat Esther into the canon. I dislike when they overstate their case about God's absence in the book. But it demonstrated to me that they simple are not careful readers. Thus:
    The Book of Esther is perhaps the oddest work included within the canon of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament: The story is set in Iranian Susa--far away from ancient Israel and Judah, and the biblical God is not mentioned even once in the text. Rather, we encounter a folkloristic narrative in which a murderous plot against the Jews of the Persian Empire is thwarted and turned back upon its originator without the aid of divine intervention, solely through the efforts of a virtuous, beautiful, and courageous woman.
    This is nonsense, on the level of peshat. God is not explicitly mentioned in the text, but the characters are aware of his presence. In Esther perek 4, why should everyone fast, at Esther's command? For their health?? Clearly the point is an appeal to God.

    And similarly, Mordechai tells Esther that "if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then will relief and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place, but thou and thy father's house will perish; and who knoweth whether thou art not come to royal estate for such a time as this?" How does Mordechai believe that relief and deliverance will arive from elsewhere? And why does he think that she came to the royal house for this purpose? Clearly because he believes that a Divine Hand is guiding these events.

    Once we realize this, we realize that all the "accidents" and "coincidences" in the book are intended by the Biblical author to be Divine guidance of events, though via hester panim. And then the entire book opens up with examples of this. So that claim is nonsense.

  3. On the Main Line on a description, rather than censure, of Hebrew music. Someone trying to be objective. Personally, I do not think much of chazzanus.

  4. Rationalist Judaism on the regularity of nature, a response to a shiur which was recently trumpeted as an answer to everything and a demonstration of the flaws in the scientific approach.

  5. It is not just some Jewish mystics who are going nuts about the apocalypse. "Witnesses" are apparently excited about the same. Meanwhile, check out my extensive apocalypse blogging:

    Rosh Chodesh Sivan: The day of the apocalypse?
    Apocalypse? Bring it on!
    You call this an apocalypse?!
    You mean you *still* call this an apocalypse?!

  6. Why does this sound so familiar? Zchus Avos:
    It says “ad mochoras haShabbos”, meaning that we have the whole sefira including the 50th day to [do] teshuva and purify ourselves (the word “sapir” can mean purify). And if one can’t purify himself, even on the last day, then he has no choice but to attach himself to theTzadik Emes, and he will lift him up and purify him. Through his attachment to the Tzadik Emes, he will be able to do teshuva. (Divrei Dovid)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Believing that one's rebbe is dead

A fascinating -- and potentially troublesome -- story told over at the Daas Torah blog. believing one's rebbe is dead:
Rav Shurkin tells the following story in Megged Givos Olam:

Rav Moshe Soloveitchik first learned of the petira of his father Rav Chaim from the newspapers. Rav Moshe poskened that one should not believe anying published in a newspaper and thus it was not considered notification. As a result he did not sit shiva but rather took the dangerous journey [during World War I] to Warsaw where Rav Chaim had died. After 10 days he returned suddenly to his house with a pale face and a terrible appearance and said he had received reliable testimony that his father in fact was niftar and he started observing aveilus. After a number of days he received a letter of condolence from Rav Hirsch the son in law of the Chofetz Chaim who was a very close friend. He wanted to know why Rav Moshe had not believed the newspapers to sit shiva - since it was a matter which was readily verifiable? Rav Moshe wrote back the following. Concerning the verses describing the death of Eliyahu and the response of Elisha and the bnei neviim - despite Elisha seeing his rebbe going into Heaven and the bnei neviim reporting Eliyahu's death - they {J: this would be the Bnei Neviim} wanted to search after Eliyahu as if he were alive? Rav Moshe said you learn from this that one is prohibited to believe that one's rebbe had died. When Rav Hirsch received this letter he showed it to his father-in-law, the Chofetz Chaim and he agreed with it and praised it.
We thus have a position, approved by the Chofetz Chaim, that one is forbidden to believe another person that one's rebbe is dead. (The idea of not believing newspapers is another interesting bit.) Are we really maintaining this? If so, then there are repercussions. After all, there are many Lubavitch chassidim nowadays who also refuse to believe that their rebbe is dead. And this has profound theological ramifications.

The answer, of course, is that this his point was not to disregard any and all testimony. After all, "he had received reliable testimony that his father in fact was niftar and he started observing aveilus." There was just a level of testimony that was required, and absent that, one was "forbidden" to believe.

I am unconvinced that one can go off deriving novel halachos for oneself based on interpretations of pesukim, and events, in Neviim. I do not believe that this is the way halacha works. The Chafetz Chaim may have taken pleasure in the dvar Torah, but would he really apply it in the general case as halacha? I have my doubts.

What is peshat in this narrative in Neviim. Indeed, earlier, the Bnei Neviim told Elisha that his teacher was going to leave him that day, and Elisha told them he know. Thus, in II Melachim 2:
א וַיְהִי, בְּהַעֲלוֹת יְהוָה אֶת-אֵלִיָּהוּ, בַּסְעָרָה, הַשָּׁמָיִם; וַיֵּלֶךְ אֵלִיָּהוּ וֶאֱלִישָׁע, מִן-הַגִּלְגָּל.1 And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah by a whirlwind into heaven, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.
ב וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלִיָּהוּ אֶל-אֱלִישָׁע שֵׁב-נָא פֹה, כִּי יְהוָה שְׁלָחַנִי עַד-בֵּית-אֵל, וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלִישָׁע, חַי-יְהוָה וְחֵי-נַפְשְׁךָ אִם-אֶעֶזְבֶךָּ; וַיֵּרְדוּ, בֵּית-אֵל.2 And Elijah said unto Elisha: 'Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me as far as Beth-el.' And Elisha said: 'As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee.' So they went down to Beth-el.--
ג וַיֵּצְאוּ בְנֵי-הַנְּבִיאִים אֲשֶׁר-בֵּית-אֵל, אֶל-אֱלִישָׁע, וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו, הֲיָדַעְתָּ כִּי הַיּוֹם יְהוָה לֹקֵחַ אֶת-אֲדֹנֶיךָ מֵעַל רֹאשֶׁךָ; וַיֹּאמֶר גַּם-אֲנִי יָדַעְתִּי, הֶחֱשׁוּ.3 And the sons of the prophets that were at Beth-el came forth to Elisha, and said unto him: 'Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to-day?' And he said: 'Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace.'--
That is not necessarily the same as death. Rather, his master would be "taken" from him. A bit later in the same perek, we have the Bnei Neviim standing from far off, across the Yarden, so that they do not witness the next events, though Elisha does. Then,
יא וַיְהִי, הֵמָּה הֹלְכִים הָלוֹךְ וְדַבֵּר, וְהִנֵּה רֶכֶב-אֵשׁ וְסוּסֵי אֵשׁ, וַיַּפְרִדוּ בֵּין שְׁנֵיהֶם; וַיַּעַל, אֵלִיָּהוּ, בַּסְעָרָה, הַשָּׁמָיִם.11 And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, which parted them both assunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
יב וֶאֱלִישָׁע רֹאֶה, וְהוּא מְצַעֵק אָבִי אָבִי רֶכֶב יִשְׂרָאֵל וּפָרָשָׁיו, וְלֹא רָאָהוּ, עוֹד; וַיַּחֲזֵק, בִּבְגָדָיו, וַיִּקְרָעֵם, לִשְׁנַיִם קְרָעִים.12 And Elisha saw it, and he cried: 'My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof!' And he saw him no more; and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.
and then the Bnei Neviim want to search, or send people to search. They search and do not find. Thus:
טו וַיִּרְאֻהוּ בְנֵי-הַנְּבִיאִים אֲשֶׁר-בִּירִיחוֹ, מִנֶּגֶד, וַיֹּאמְרוּ, נָחָה רוּחַ אֵלִיָּהוּ עַל-אֱלִישָׁע; וַיָּבֹאוּ, לִקְרָאתוֹ, וַיִּשְׁתַּחֲווּ-לוֹ, אָרְצָה.15 And when the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho some way off saw him, they said: 'The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha.' And they came to meet him, and bowed down to the ground before him.
טז וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו הִנֵּה-נָא יֵשׁ-אֶת-עֲבָדֶיךָ חֲמִשִּׁים אֲנָשִׁים בְּנֵי-חַיִל, יֵלְכוּ נָא וִיבַקְשׁוּ אֶת-אֲדֹנֶיךָ--פֶּן-נְשָׂאוֹ רוּחַ יְהוָה, וַיַּשְׁלִכֵהוּ בְּאַחַד הֶהָרִים אוֹ בְּאַחַת הגיאות (הַגֵּיאָיוֹת); וַיֹּאמֶר, לֹא תִשְׁלָחוּ.16 And they said unto him: 'Behold now, there are with thy servants fifty strong men; let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master; lest peradventure the spirit of the LORD hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley.' And he said: 'Ye shall not send.'
יז וַיִּפְצְרוּ-בוֹ עַד-בֹּשׁ, וַיֹּאמֶר שְׁלָחוּ; וַיִּשְׁלְחוּ חֲמִשִּׁים אִישׁ, וַיְבַקְשׁוּ שְׁלֹשָׁה-יָמִים וְלֹא מְצָאֻהוּ.17 And when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said: 'Send.' They sent therefore fifty men; and they sought three days, but found him not.
יח וַיָּשֻׁבוּ אֵלָיו, וְהוּא יֹשֵׁב בִּירִיחוֹ; וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם, הֲלֹא-אָמַרְתִּי אֲלֵיכֶם אַל-תֵּלֵכוּ. {ס}18 And they came back to him, while he tarried at Jericho; and he said unto them: 'Did I not say unto you: Go not?' {S}
What is peshat here? Didn't these Bnei Neviim themselves say earlier that Eliyahu would take his leave of Elisha? Rashi addresses this:
Perhaps a wind from the Lord has carried him off: Is it possible that on the day before, they said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master from you?” (v. 5) and now they did not know where he was? This teaches us that since the day when Elijah was hidden, the holy spirit departed from the prophets, and the holy spirit was no longer widespread throughout Israel.
But this is just addressing the peshat question, of why they did not know. This is not the same as refusing to believe him.

Even if we take it exactly as proposed, a simple reading of this perek is that the Bnei Neviim were wrong to not follow Elisha on this point. And furthermore, we saw that
Rav Moshe Soloveitchik was willing to take evidence from a trustworthy witness. Is Elisha not a trustworthy witness?! Thus, even if we take this reading in the text, and try to derive halacha from it, it does not work out.

There are further flaws in this approach. For one, if we are following Rashi's interpretation of the perek, the Bnei Neviim were not necessarily students of Eliyahu. Thus, on pasuk 3:
your master: but not our master. This teaches us that they were equal to Elijah.
If so, nothing can be gleaned from their unwillingness to believe Elisha. He was not their rebbe!

Furthermore, there are many other interpretations of the events here. See here in a Mikraos Gedolos. For example, Ralbag maintains that they thought he had hidden himself in one of the caves, comparing it to where Ovadia said to him that a Divine wind will carry him to some place he does not know. The implication is that they knew Eliyahu would be taken that day from Elisha, and perhaps they were even privy to the idea of a fiery chariot. But they did not think that Eliyahu had died. And then, this has nothing to do with it somehow being forbidden to believe somebody about this.

Radak writes similarly, that they thought he had been carried away from bnei adam by the wind, but not to heaven. And he similarly cites the words of Ovadiah.

And Metzudas David suggests that they did believe that Eliyahu had died, but that it was his spirit which ascended, while his corpse was cast somewhere on the mountains. Elisha knew that Eliyahu had ascended in body as well, but held back this information from them, because of humility, that they should not know that he had seen this wondrous sight (which had implications as to his prophetic status). Here as well, there is no matter of them disbelieving in Eliyahu's death. Indeed, they believed he died, and wanted to search for his corpse!

As such, I do not believe that such a derivation of halacha is warranted. Then again, I do not totally believe that halacha was indeed being derived here.

Interesting Posts and Articles #148

  1. On The Main Line reports on the mixed reviews that Kuzari Sheni gets: negative from Moses Marcus, and positive from Rav Chaim Kanievsky. You can read the sefer online for free, over at

  2. The Seforim blog has an article in Hebrew about Chillul Hashem in the eyes of non-Jews.

  3. Balashon has blogged about omer. Now he blogs more about sheaves.

  4. My father-in-law was telling me that he was considering having birchas hamazon on a kos, given that even though we say it is non-obligatory, those why say this still would maintain it a hiddur. This echoes an Aruch Hashulchan. My gut reaction is to not be in favor of it, and perhaps I will explain in another post why. But for now, here is an article by Rabbi Ari Zivitovsky in the 2000 Jewish Action about it.

  5. Kankan Chadash explores the meaning of nashim daatan kalos.

  6. From the Mashiach is Coming blog:
    I just listened to an interview in Hebrew of a soldier who fought in Gaza and said that the image of Rachel Imeinu saved him and a number of other soldiers from death. He reported that they were about to enter a house, when an image appeared before him and told him not to enter the house because there was death inside. When he asked her who she was, she responded by saying she was Rachel Imeinu. The soldiers discovered threads and munitions and realized the house had been boobytrapped.
    Subsequently, the soldier told his story to some Rabbis who said that he had merited to see the Gilui Hashchina - a revelation from G-d and that he should publicize his story.
    You can download the audio in Hebrew. The story begins about 10 minutes into the audio.
    It does not seem to be the same soldier from the video. As I discussed in an earlier post, unfortunately I do not find that that other eyewitness testimony to be believable. Because a less dramatic story, in which the woman did not mention any specific danger in the house and in which she did not identify herself as Rochel Imenu, was told to Rabbi Lazer Brody shortly after the incident. And Rabbi Brody was the one who first suggested that it was Mama Rachel. I do not know why the soldier is exaggerating the truth, or making this up, but that seems to be the case. And the rabbis who do not look into it and help spread the fake version of the story are probably partially responsible.

    In this particular instance, it also does not seem believable. I did not listen to this one myself -- I am having trouble playing the audio. But check out LifeInIsrael for a summary, and a different link, and check out the comment section. A quote:
    He describes the whole thing, though he cannot say where in gaza he was and what unit he is in. From what he says it sounds like she was not really simply an old woman walking by. Rather, she was some spiritual, or ghostly, form. he says she was not set on the ground, was more of a figure, did not seem to have arms or legs, and he could not see her face. The poor guy says he has not been able to sleep a restful night since he saw her. He went to many rabbonim, including Rav Ovadya Yosef, who told him that the time has come to tell the story, as he witnessed a miracle. She told the soldier she came because of the prayers of so many jews, so from above they sent her down to save them.

    The soldier refuses to say whether others saw her or not in other such instances. He says he saw her, but was not at the other sightings, so he cannot say what happened there.
    From the fact that others are making things up about this, and from the "problems" with the story, I don't believe this version for an instant.

  7. Yeranen Yaakov gives over the Mabit on later geulah dates.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sleeping on the night of Shavuot? Some sources...

Shir Hashirim Rabba 1:56:
ב) ר' פנחס בשם רבי הושעיא אמר: 
עד שהמלך במסבו 
עד שהמלך מלכי המלכים הקדוש ב"ה במסבו ברקיע. 
כבר הקדים, שנאמר: (שמות י"ט) ויהי ביום השלישי בהיות הבקר.
למלך שגזר ליום פלוני, אני נכנס למדינה, וישנו להם בני המדינה כל הלילה. 
וכשבא המלך ומצאם ישנים, העמיד עליהם בקלאנין בוקינס ושופר, והיה השר של אותה מדינה, מעוררן ומוציאן לאפנתי של מלך, והיה המלך מהלך לפניהם, עד שהגיע לפלטין שלו.
כך הקדוש ברוך הוא הקדים, דכתיב: (שם) ויהי ביום השלישי בהיות הבקר. 
וכתיב: (שם) כי ביום השלישי ירד ה' לעיני כל העם. 
ישנו להם ישראל כל אותו הלילה, לפי ששינה של עצרת עריבה והלילה קצרה. 

אמר ר' יודן: 
אפילו פורטענא לא עקץ בם. בא הקדוש ברוך הוא ומצאן ישנים, התחיל מעמיד עליהם בקלאנין. הדא הוא דכתיב: "ויהי ביום השלישי בהיות הבקר ויהי קולות וברקים". 
והיה משה מעורר לישראל ומוציאן, לאפנתי של מלך מלכי המלכים הקדוש ברוך הוא. 
הדא הוא דכתיב: (שם) ויוצא משה את העם לקראת האלהים. והיה הקדוש ברוך הוא מהלך לפניהם, עד שהגיע להר סיני. דכתיב: (שם) והר סיני עשן כלו. 

אמר רבי יצחק: 
זה הוא, שמקנתרן על ידי ישעיהו. שנאמר: (ישעיה נ') מדוע באתי ואין איש, קראתי ואין עונה, הקצר קצרה ידי מפדות?! 

Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer, perek 41, and see the commentary.

And Ibn Ezra, on Yitro, giving precisely the opposite peshat in the pasuk, such that there would be no need for tikkun. Perhaps we can argue for reenactment?
[יט, יא]
והיו נכנים -
אולי לא יישן אדם בהם בלילה. שישמעו קול ה' בבקר. כדרך כוהן גדול ביום הכפורים.
This is not a comprehensive list of sources. I should bring the Zohar, Magen Avraham, etc.

At A Simple Jew, Rabbi Micha Golshevsky on the Arizal's assurance to the one who stays up learning all night Shavuos.

Interesting Posts and Articles #147

  1. Life in Israel has a bunch of good posts. First, the battle of the tzedaka organizations for primacy in the Shelah segulah. And on believing what you hear -- and even what you see! -- in the name of Rav Elyashiv. Including the now famous video about tznius, and whether Rav Elyashiv really said what was attributed to him in terms of SMS. Related, Rationalist Judaism posts that video and wonders about it. I have what to say about it, but never got around to posting. Perhaps soon.

  2. Deserving of its own heading, Life in Israel posts on how Rav Amar backtracked on the thrips on strawberries, in an interview with Shas Youth. See also at Shirat Devorah. And thanks to those who emailed me about this as well.
    "Rav Amar said that he was discussing the halacha of bugs that cannot be seen. He is not saying that is the metzius of the strawberries. Rav Amar says he mentioned strawberries in the context that if the bugs on strawberries are of this type, that cannot be seen, they would be allowed to be eaten. Because the experts say that the strawberries are infested with bugs that can be seen by the naked eye, one should be careful about eating them regarding the halachos of bugs, and of one cannot clean them properly, one should not eat them."
    He was discussing theory without discussing the actual application, and whether the bugs are considered visible. It therefore all goes back to the experts, as well as our own eyes. I still think there is what to to discuss about this, but enough for now.

  3. The Way to Nothing discusses Kol Brisk, in a version not as safe to accountants and electrical contractors. I don't believe the situation is so pashut.

  4. At A Simple Jew, Tehillim and Chassidim. When was it first regarded as an entire unit to say?

  5. Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths is finally convinced that Obama is Gog, because of certain positions on Yerushalayim. We will have to see how things shape up. Meanwhile, DovBear is having none of it.

  6. Yefes makes an interesting point.

  7. In England, Pringles are potato chips, by law. Compare with halacha determining the status of things. This reminds me of Jasper Fford's The Fourth Bear, in which the resolution of the story hinged upon whether a gingerbread man was a cookie or a biscuit. But this is something they actually debate in England!

  8. On the Main Line on what a Chinese chumash looks like.

  9. Country Yossi Magazine, in the Let's Shmooze section, reprints the Sold a Yid for a quarter story. I previously covered this story in a post titled The Rabbi, the Priest, and the Quarterback. There, I demonstrated that the story was initially about a priest who said "Oh Lord, I almost sold your Son for a quarter!" I really dislike the adaptation of these stories.

  10. A yeshiva closes until after Shavuos because of one confirmed case of swine flu. I found it annoying and misleading when one blogger wrote
    Clearly, one who neither eats swine nor acts like swine need worry about Swine Flu.
    not only because it is untrue and gives the impression that you get it from cooked pork, but because it has the effect of being malshin the inevitable frum person who contracts the disease (as well as others even before them who did not get it from swine but from another person, and were moral people). No, we are not guaranteed "emunity," to borrow a word.

  11. Don't forget to check out this week's Haveil Havalim, over at What War Zone?


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