Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sweet 16 Cholent Recipe

The following recipe was modified from the original, which was posted at Mixed Multitudes. We tried it last Shabbat and it was delicious!

Modified sweet 16 cholent recipe (with quantities and certainty added for Yekkies) :
Sauce:

1 bottle Tomato Sauce (I used Barilla Marinara)
1 small can Tomato Paste
5 heaping tsp garlic
1 package Goodman's Kosher Onion Soup Mix
1/4 cup maple syrup
brown sugar to taste
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Cholent:
1 lb bone in stew meat
1 large vidalia onion
1 can Goya Kidney beans with liquid
1 can Goya White Beans with liquid
1 bag barley (8 oz?)
1 white potatoes, sliced in rounds, unpeeled
2 yellow potato, sliced in rounds, unpeeled
1 sweet potato, sliced in rounds unpeeled

The sauce is what makes this cholent unique. Mix ingredient above together and simmer for a while on medium low heat. The red sauce and onion soup is the secret to this cholent.

In a 12" circular baking pot
Dice onions - enough to cover the bottom of the pot.

Then layer in a mixture of beans and barley.

Next, put a layer of stew meat.

We places a layer of the sauce in at this point.

The next layer was a mix of 2/3rds sweet and 1/3rd regular Yukon Gold/Idaho potatoes (just enough to cover the meat). We did not peel the potatoes. They were cut about 1 centimeter thick.

Another layer of sauce.

If there is space, put in another layer of beans, then meat, then potatoes…

I put the sweet potato rounds on the circumference of the pot.

Then another layer of the sauce. Add water if needed.

Cook in 350 degree oven for 3 -4 hours, then just before Shabbat add water if needed and keep warm until Shabbos lunch.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fun halachic fact of the day

According to the Magen Avraham(*), there is a way to be mechallel shabbat (in violation of the laws of Shabbat) on a Wednesday (or any other weekday), but you can prevent the problem in advance with libun (heating something red-hot).


(*) As interpreted by me according to my personal metasystem for such things.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

A brief comment on the history of machloket

Rabbi Pruzansky of Teaneck posted an essay on his blog which included the following:

A “machloket,” I assume, was not always perceived the way it is today. Abaye and Rava (yeah, yeah, no one is Abaye and Rava here) did not engender the support of partisan factions in their several thousand areas of conflict. (Typical conversation on the Babylonian blogs in the 4th century CE: “Supporters of Rava: ‘Have you heard? Our master Rava says that when a married woman is accused of infidelity by only one witness, and does not deny it, the one witness is still not believed. But Abaya says that the solitary witness is believed! [Kiddushin 66a] He must be anti-woman, that troglodyte!’” Typical ? Somehow, I don’t think so.)

The hostile reaction here was so visceral that I could only conclude that, contrary to traditional halachic methodology, people are emotionally vested in a certain outcome. Like the rabid sports fan who supports his favorite team and wants them to win at all costs – even if they cheat, even if the umpire or referee blows a call [“a win is a win”] – one group of polemicists wants its side to win. They have little interest in halachic process, but rather a passionate desire for a particular result.

I submitted a comment, which apparently he chose not to publish, so I'm putting it out here:

The schools of Hillel and Shammai represent both extremes in partisanship. One the one hand, although they disagreed about kashrut and mazerut they ate in each others' homes and married one another(*).

On the other hand, the Yerushalmi lists the 18 halachot passed by Beit Shammai after they used force (including murder!) against Beit Hillel to create a majority. (Tosef., Shab. i. 16 et seq.; Shab. 13a, 17a; Yer. Shab. i. 3c).

So I would say that passion in the pursuit of Torah is not a new thing. Indeed it goes back even to the days of the second Beit Hamkidash, as related in the story of why a lottery was instituted for determining who would change the ashes on the altar.

(*) Personally I assume this to mean that the 2 schools practiced full disclosure with one another - "Although I believe this woman is fit to marry, by your understanding of halacha she is a mamzeret" and so forth. I wonder if this approach can at least provide a breathing space with respect to the current conversion controversy.

Monday, November 23, 2009

RCA draws a line in the sand - but why here

Well, the RCA has decided it stands for something - it requires members not to be meschists. I wasn't aware of a flood of chabadnik rabbis overwhelming the RCA. The new RCA loyalty oath includes the following:


"In light of disturbing developments which have recently arisen in the Jewish community... declares that there is not and never has been a place in Judaism for the belief that Mashiach ben David will begin his Messianic mission only to experience death, burial and resurrection before completing it."


I'd rather see the RCA require the following:

In light of disturbing developments which have recently arisen in the Jewish community... declares that there is not a place in Judaism for the belief that belief in a world older than 6000 years is kefira


In light of disturbing developments which have recently arisen in the Jewish community... declares that there is not and never has been a place in Judaism for the belief that only glatt meat is kosher for Ashkenazim


In light of disturbing developments which have recently arisen in the Jewish community... declares that there is not and never has been a place in Judaism for the belief that long standing conversions can be retroactively nullified


What vertebrae would you add to the RCA's backbone? Reply in the comments

Rambam and me

One of my few original contributions to the laws of the Jewish internet
were The Rambam syllogisms:

Rambam 1:
Rambam was a genius but he lived a long time ago.
I live today, and I believe X.
Therefore if Rambam were alive today he would believe X.

Rambam 2:
Rambam was a genius, and so his works are correspondingly difficult to
understand
I believe X.
Therefore if we study Rambam's works, we can see that he believed X.

Personally, I believe that if Rambam were alive today, he'd probably say
"get me out of this tomb!". And then he'd be upset at all the bare faced
women on the women's side of the mechitza at the tomb site.

Of course, when people say if Rambam were alive today they generally mean
'if Rambam was born 50 years ago' rather than 'if when Rambam allegedly
died 800 years ago he was actually brought through time and no is saying
what he thinks about the state of today's Judaism'. I'm not very
interested in either Rambam - what the former thinks is unknowable and what
the latter thinks is irrelevant as he does not qualify as 'the judge that
is in our generation'.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Nightmare 3

In a post on Curious Jew's blog, we were discussing the validity of platonic relationships.
Someone asked:
As far as having female friends — is the advantage of their friendship really greater than the danger of inappropriate (in this context) feelings appearing between us?
and I replied

As a 50+ year old man who BT'd in his 40s, I will unequivocally answer that based on the experiences of my life the advantages of platonic friendship with women overwhelmingly outweigh the dangers of inappropriate feelings for me.

A third party responded:

Based on what concept in Judaism do you give this answer?


I was dumbfounded. I talk about the fact that you can and should see everything through the lens of halacha, but the idea that one should simply completely disregard one's life experience unless you can show that halacha supports what you have actually lived seems insane to me.

After a few minutes I answered (in two posts)
Chaim Bachem. Or Darchei Noam, if you prefer.

I'm sure the commenter will find this answer completely inappropriate because he thinks it misuses the concepts I brought up.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Study too hard and your mind starts to wander

(Sung to Maria from West Side Story

The laws of a pot placed before Shabbat
Shehiya
Fully cooked is ok, partially is not
Sheihya

Shehiya - Shehiya Sheiyah Shehiya

Sheiya!
I've learned all the laws of Shehiya
And suddenly I've found
how a cholent can be browned
indeed
Shehiya
If its raw then its OK staying
Fully cooked and its ok remaining

Shehiya
I'll never stop learning shehiya

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tales from HP 4

I was at a bar mitzvah yesterday at the local Sephardi shul. The BM did quite credibly, reading the entire parsha and doing the haftorah as well.

At the kiddush luncheon that followed, I was sitting with the shul rabbi. I mentioned that I was studying the laws of chazara (returning a pot to the blech on Shabbat) and had some questions. We had a nice conversation, with him mentioning at a few points where the halacha differed between Ashkenzaim and Sephardim. We left with a few unanswered questions, which I researched over Shabbat and was going to write him an email about.

This afternoon the Rabbi called me at home wanting to amplify and correct some of what we said, and also to fill in some of the unanswered questions. Remember, I'm not a congregant, not a regular at his shul, and don't take any classes of he offers. He had to remember my name, contact my teacher for contact information, all to just answer some casual questions someone asked at a kiddush.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

English source for halachic rulings about electricity

As always, ask your rabbi for actual piskei halacha, but this looks like an excellent study resource: Megavolt.co.il.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Two approaches to the Yamim Noraim

First night Rosh HaShanah this year I was a guest over a friend's house. We were talking and I mentioned that I thought I was less prepared for the High Holidays this year than I had been for quite a while. He asked why, and I explained that between work, Malka Esther's health, and the large number of shiurim I was attending and the work associated with preparing for those shiurim I hadn't actually found much time for cheshbon hanefesh (self examination).

He commented that all my Torah study counted as a great zechut (merit) and thus I really didn't have much to worry about this year. I realized we were celebrating the same holidays two very different ways.

In my eyes, this was a time to engage in self examination, to review my spiritual goals from last year (cut down the personal sarcasm, check, make it to shul every Sunday morning for shacharit, oops, etc.) to decide what I need to work on for next year, to review where I've blundered badly in my personal relationships and figure out who to apologize to for what, and so forth. Since I hadn't done most any of that, I was poorly prepared. Torah study didn't really enter into it, other than my having set a goal of maintaining some serious torah study.

To my friend this was the time when Avinu Malkenu reviewed my actions over the past year, being pleased with my mitzvot and dismayed by my sins. All my torah study didn't just count towards one goal, rather it was a major plus in evaluating my entire status. While I needed to get forgiveness from those I had wronged in order for Hashem to forgive me, the merit of Torah study still counted a long way towards my receiving approval from Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

How do my readers see the holiday? Primarily a time for self examination(*) or primarily a time for divine judgment, or something else altogether?

(*) I wanted to make a joke about zman chesbon nefashenu but my friends who take grammar seriously would not have been amused, Plus that is deflecting via sarcasm again, and I'm still trying to stop that.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Shulchan Aruch and Technical Writing

When I first started studying Talmud, I thought it made a lousy technical manual. I fairly quickly understood that wasn't its purpose. The codes - the Mishneh Torah, the Shulchan Aruch, the Mishna Berura - that is where I would find decent tech writing, I decided. The memories I had of studying the Mishneh Torah just post bar-mtizvah reinforced this impression.

Years past, and I finally began to study the Shulchan Aruch. My first thought was - wow! the craft of tech writing has really advanced since this book was written. But eventually I came to the conclusion that one of the major problems was the way revisions to the SA were handled.

This is how it would go, IMO, if we did software manuals the Shulchan Aruch way.

The Microsoft Word 1.0 manual would be made by consulting the manuals for WordPerfect, Wordstar, and Notepad. Majority would rule, except where it wouldn't. Shortly after the first edition came out, some tech writer for one of the computer magazines would produce a fisked edition which would quickly become the standard. Other people would take this now standard text and hyperlink their commentaries to it. When new releases of the software came out the old text would be left unaltered, but new hyperlinks would be added. It would like like this:

Shulchan Aruch To exit the program, press Alt F4 Rema: And there are those who say that it is better to press Alt F and then Alt X and this is the custom and should not be changed

[Tons of other commentaries here]

[6 hyperlinks from the Shach which point to earlier comments in the Shulchan Aruch]
Shach It is best to save before exiting, but if one did not do so when the program asks if the text should be saved one should reply yes. In a case of great need, for example if one has completely screwed up shortly before the deadline one may exit without saving.


[On the other side of the page in a different font]
Taz The M"A has an alternate method of closing, which is preferred.




[To be really accurate this reference should be on another page entirely, but I'll spare you]
Magen Avraham: Hitting Ctrl Q requires fewer keystrokes to exit and hence is preferred.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bicycle riding on Yom Tov

Just because I keep needing to refer to this link, and it took me a while to remember the search terms to find it, I'm publishing it here. The Syrian decision allowing bicycle riding on Yom Tov and (within an eruv) on Shabbat can be found at Judaic.org. The key search term I need to remember is Yom Tob not Yom Tov.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Cryptic Comment

Apparently Yated regards "de mortuis nil nisi bonumm" as chukat hagoyim.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Poor logic or outright deception?

In this week's Kosher Today there is an awful article named New Challenge to Kosher Law as Fraud Increases. In it the author repeatedly equates trademark violation and consumer fraud with non-Orthodox interpretations of the kashrut laws. One example:

New York…Avi G, a New Yorker vacationing in Ft. Lauderdale, found an ice cream cup at a local convenience store with an unclear kosher symbol. “It was either an OU or OV, but either way it didn’t look right,” he told KosherToday. Avi ultimately found out that the ice cream was using an unauthorized symbol. Pfizer recently filed suit against Marco Hi-Tech for allegedly selling it a kosher ingredient with a fraudulent letter from the Orthodox Union. The two are but a small sample of growing fraud and other misrepresentation of kosher that are creating angst amongst many kosher consumers.

Successful challenges against laws protecting kosher consumers have in the words of kosher experts left the growing base of kosher consumers extremely vulnerable. Kashrus agencies say that they have been forced to spend significant amounts of money to protect their symbols from fraud. These concerns are not shared by a Georgian Conservative rabbi and the ACLU who filed suit against the State for defining kosher as meeting “orthodox Hebrew religious rules and requirements.” Rabbi Shalom Lewis claims he cannot fulfill his rabbinical duties “because his theological interpretation of the state’s kosher laws differs from that of Orthodox Judaism.” He said he “violates state law” when he approves some foods as kosher that are not kosher under Orthodox definitions.” The laws have been on the books since 1980.


Rabbi Lewis wants to be able to say that a restaurant he supervises is kosher even though they use non-heckshered cheese. This is a completely different issue from fraudulently printing an OU on unsupervised foods. The NJ and NY kosher laws cover this case adequately - any restaurant certified by Rabbi Lewis would have to disclose that he is not an Orthodox rabbi, and that he doesn't require hecksherim on his cheese.

I suspect the author of the article genuinely doesn't see the difference. As far as he is concerned, a restaurant that serves unheckshered cheese is a treif restaurant, period. But this logic has no end to it. Lubavitch chassidim insist that chalav stam is treif - they do not accept Rav Feinstein's ruling even b'deivad. Should all restaurants that serve chalav stam not be allowed to call themselves kosher? Many chassidic groups don't consider stam shechita to be acceptable. Should a restaurant that serves Empire chicken be called treif?

The role of the secular government is to prevent consumer fraud without ruling on religious disputes. Someone who puts the OU on a product without actually being under the supervision of the OU is clearly committing fraud. No special laws whatsoever are needed - it would be like selling Del Monte Pineapple while being in no away affiliated with Del Monte.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Yated no more?

My free email subscription to the American Yated is going away. It now will cost $15 a year, leading me to wonder if I can support them, and if so is it worth that much to me. I generally read the letters column, the 2 halacha columns, and the 'ooh, shabbes is SO special' column. Once in a while I print off a recipe. Worth it or no?

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Yorea Deah hypothetical

Inspired by my chevruta study today in Basar B'Chalav.

Imagine you have a new 8 ounce metal spoon, which you use to stir an ounce of melted margarine. Later that day you take out two spoonfuls of beef stew with the same spoon. When you go to spread margarine on your bread, you realize that it is dairy margarine.

How many ounces of Beef Stew has to be in the pot in order to nullify the spoon and still be kosher?

Highlight the area below for my answer.
540 oz. The relevant halachot are
  1. If you know exactly how much food a kli (utensil, like a spoon or a pot) has absorbed you can use that amount instead of the total size of the kli.
  2. If you dip a mlichig spoon twice into a meat pot you need 120 rather than 60.
  3. So the first time you dip the spoon, you need 60 * 1 oz to nullify the diary in the spoon. At the same time 8 oz of bliot from the meat enter into the spoon and become a chanan of milk and meat. So the next time you dip the spoon, you need 8 oz * 60 to nullify the spoon which is now full of milk and meat. 60 + 480 = 540

Monday, July 20, 2009

Maybe we're learning

I was pleased to see the OU taking forthright responsibility for a screw up outrageous action by their Israeli subsidiary and doing what they could to put it right. This is a big improvement from an organization that has had trouble refraining from cover ups and obfuscation in the past.

OU disavows publication distributed to IDF

Monday, July 13, 2009

Making the 3 weeks meaningful

Last year I tried to make the 3 weeks meaningful by spending some time each day imagining being in Jerusalem as the Romans breached the walls. This picture was heavily influenced by the Avalon Hill war game Siege of Jerusalem. In the game, the first time any Roman unit enters an area of Jerusalem the Roman's haven't been in previously, they are immediate attacked by random inhabitants - people with knives, clubs and other improvised weaponry. By the rules, these people are effectively committing suicide - the best outcome of the combat for them against an intact legion unit is that they are not destroyed and do minimal damage to the unit. But that image of the people of Jerusalem swarming from the surroundings like dragon's teeth with toothaches stayed with me. I also tried to visualize being one of the Cohanim - as day after day rolled by without being able to offer the daily tamid and the increasing fear that this time Hashem wasn't going to send a plague to strike down the besiegers as He did Sanchirev.

This year instead I'm trying to make myself feel the absence of the Beit Hamikdash. To know that once there was a place where Hashem was undeniably manifest, but now it is gone. To visualize the daily activity as the kohanim, leviim and yisraelim performed their daily functions.

In my vision today, a man comes to offer a todah (thanksgiving offering) for a child who miraculously survived an illness. As designed, the todah offering is too large for even an entire family to eat, so they and their neighbors have an informal block party, eating the sacrifice, singing tehillim (psalms) of praise and gratitude, and feeling a direct connection to Hashem that Larry in the 21st century finds almost unimaginable. They have two days and the intervening night to finish eating the sacrifice, so the child's grandparents are able to come from their farm outside Jerusalem to join the celebration. They bring their ma'aser sheni money and buy some extra supplies for the celebration - perhaps some olives soaked in a salty brine so as to consume one of the 7 foods for which the land of Israel is praised.

That's all gone now - I've only ever been to one seudat hodah. It was moving, but isn't the same when it is ordinary food and not kodoshim (holy food).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Korach question

Why were the tests Moshe specified for Korach to participate in (the 12 staffs, the earthquake) not invalidated because of the principle of lo bashamayin hi?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

An apt rejoinder

Rabbi Avraham Sherman is at it again, questioning the motives of all potential gerim in Israel, who are overwhelmingly Russian. My favorite response to the article was in one of the comments: Dear Rabi Sherman: In Olam Habah, gerim nullify you.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Out of town will save us all?

From a beliefnet article by David Klinghoffer

Excerpt:

Most Jews who know anything about Orthodox Judaism associate it with major population centers like New York, Baltimore, Miami, etc. The truth is that almost all the negative stereotypes linked with traditional Judaism stem from such places. Yet there exists a whole alternative universe of Orthodox Judaism in traditional communities in other places, provincial localities like Seattle where I live, but others as well: San Diego, Portland, Sacramento, Atlanta, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and other relatively small American cities. The Orthodoxy in such places is quite different from what you find in New Jersey, Long Island, and so on. It is thriving and dynamic, accepting and diverse, enthusiastic for tradition in surprising ways, and largely undocumented. It's also a lot more attractive, at least to me.


Anyone from the provinces care to speak up?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tales of HP

Another example of why I love this town. Letters are boiled down and not acutal quotes. Rabbi Sephardi is not the head of the local Sephardi shul.

From: me
To : Rabbi Ashkenazi, Rabbi Sephardi
Subject: Eruv Tavshilin

Can I make an eruv tavshilin using a baked food and a roasted food, rather than the traditional baked food and boiled food?

From: Rabbi Ashkenazi
To : me
Subject: Re: Eruv Tavshilin

After the fact it is ok, but if you haven't made it yet you should use a boiled food rather than a roasted one.

From: Rabbi Sephardi
To: me
Cc: Rabbi Ashkenazi
Subject: Re: Eruv Tavshilin

According to the Rambam [detailed cite], an eruv tavshillin may be made with boiled, fried, pickled or even salted foods.

20 minutes later:

From: Rabbi Ashkenazi
To : me
Subject: Re: Eruv Tavshilin
After getting Rabbi Sephardi's email I checked the Shulchan Aruch. He is correct and I am therefore changing my psak - roasted food is ok to use in the eruv even l'hatchila.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mazel Tov to Professor Charlie Hall

Since I know he's too modest to promote himself, I'll quote Professor Hall's Daily Kos column:


Twenty years ago next month I set out to apply to graduate school in an attempt to have a career in academia as a professor. Last week I was informed, first by telephone calls from the department heads from each of my two departments, and then by a letter from my dean, that I am going to be promoted from Associate Professor to full Professor effective July 1.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Schrodinger's Chicken

This scenario came out of yore deah class tonight. Imagine that you strap a chicken into a Schrodinger's box before Shabbat starts. Seal the box closed. If something is emitted by the radiation source in a fixed interval before Shabbat the chicken dies, otherwise it lives. Because you've read too many comic books, you're worried the radiation may cause the chicken to acquire superpowers. As a result, you've equipped the interior of the box with a spring loaded kinfe that will decapitate the chicken and push the head outside the box when you pull a catch, which purely mechanically releases the knife.

No it is Shabbat evening and your whiney adorable child wants to play with a ball, only he doesn't have one. Can you decapitate the chicken, thus both giving him a ball and ensuring a lifetime of therapy bills for the poor kid?

Note: There are probably lots of shabbat violations in this setup. I'm interested in them, but the key issue I'm focused on is the following: We don't know whether the chicken is alive or not. Assuming decapitating a dead chicken is not a Shabbat violation, may we pull the catch or not?

I'll offer analysis later, but let's see what people say first.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sauce for the gander

I really feel for this anonymous man who is being deprived of the opportunity to shep nachas from his daughters and grandaughters for no reason other than gender. May this injustice and others like them quickly be corrected. The letter appears in this weeks Yated.

BAIS YAAKOV GRADUATIONS: INSENSITIVE
Dear Editor,
Recently, certain Bais Yaakov schools have changed their policy in regard to both high school and elementary school graduations. Whereas fathers and zaides were previously allowed to attend, now they are herded into a separate room and only allowed to enter the auditorium at the end of the ceremony for the handing out of diplomas. These schools might as well forbid males to attend the entire ceremony. It is demeaning and insensitive to treat fathers and zaides this way. On the day when they want to shep nachas from their daughters and granddaughters, they are treated like second-class citizens. If the administration feels men shouldn't listen to girls' valedictorian speeches, they should ban them from coming outright. One is either given a proper invitation or not invited. Becoming "frummer" should never be at the cost of hurting another's feelings. As Chazal tell us in Pirkei Avos (4:2), "Who is honored? He who honors others."
Name Withheld

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

XGH Anthem

Ben Newman is an acquaintance of mine. He's presently a graduate student at Brandeis, but he also writes and sings folk songs (including filk, for those who know what that is). One of his songs strikes me as the perfect anthem for the Modern Orthoprax movement that XGH is presently pushing.

Here's the mp3 of the song and here are the lyrics:
"That's My Story (and I'm Stickin' to It)"
lyrics and music by Benjamin Newman

/ D G / Em GA / 1st /[1. Em A :/[2. EmA D /

In every single culture since the ages of old,
Folks have found their meaning in the stories they told --
Their ethics and identity, the values they hold --
And the stories were for reading out loud.

But then the age of reason came, and somebody said,
"Those stories never happened, so mythology's dead,
And you're gonna have to look for meaning elsewhere instead,"
But me, I gotta go with the crowd:

/ D C / G D / 1st /[1. G A :/[2. GA D /

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it;
I'm gonna interpret the whole world through it.
It may not be factual, but it's true,
And that's good enough for me.

That's my tale, I tell it with conviction,
Though I know it's practically entirely fiction,
Still, it keeps me moving in the right direction --
That's the way that it oughtta be.

The facts are strangely silent on the right and the good,
'Cause logic can't compel you from an "is" to a "should".
Open up your moral code and then look under the hood,
You'll see you've made a few assumptions to start.

But what should those assumptions be, and how could we know?
Well, that's been an open question since forever ago,
And if your favorite answer is "A book told me so,"
That's 'cause it fits with what you feel in your heart.

It's your story, and your choices reflect it
And the notions it proposes of what's true and correct --
It's from a long time ago, and yet you've kept it connected
To the way of life you're living today.

It's your tale -- it forms your moral foundation,
It's played a major role throughout your whole education,
It ties you to tradition, culture, people or nation,
And it colors every word that you say.

Mythology and reason both have something to teach,
But sometimes the perfect balance seems a bit out of reach,
So on behalf of both of them I humbly beseech
That you take the matter seriously.

A myth can keep us steady or can call us to change,
While reason can reveal the way the world is arranged.
The truth has many facets (and they're all a bit strange),
And you gotta open both eyes to see.

It's your story, but it's not the whole picture --
There are things you oughtta know that aren't recorded in scripture --
And yet it still provides you with the context in which you're
Gonna place the other things that you learn.

It's your tale, it should be kept in perspective --
It's beautiful and true, but not exactly objective --
But if you can approach it thinking like a detective,
You'll find clues everywhere that you turn.

Each people has a story, handed down from the past --
They teach it to their children and they cling to it fast --
But other stories also may be destined to last,
And there's wisdom to be found in each one.

So, get to know your people's stories, and the other ones, too,
And keep an open heart and mind, whatever you do,
'Cause there are many different ways in which a thing can be true,
And there are stories that we've only begun...

They're our stories, and we're stickin' to 'em;
We're gonna interpret the whole world through 'em.
They may not be factual, but they're true,
And they've served us ably so far.

They're our tales, we tell 'em with conviction,
Though we know they're practically entirely fiction,
'Cause myth and reason, mingled, are our common condition --
That's the reason we're the way that we are.

Larry explains it all for you

Shira of On the Fringe quotes extensively from some of my comments about C Judaism here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pirke Avot 2:1

Rabbi taught: ... Be as attentive to a minor mitzvah as to a major one, for we do not know the reward for each mitzvah. Weigh the loss incurred in performing a mitzvah against the gain ...

Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi's words above seem to contradict themselves. One the one hand, he says that we do not know the reward for mitzvot, and on the other hand he suggests balancing any loss we might incur from perfoming a mitzvah against this unknown gain. How are we to perform this balancing act?

One solution comes from Rabbi Yaakov, who is quoted in Pirke Avot 4:22 ... one hour of bliss in the world to come is worth more than all the pleasures of this world. The reward in Olam Haba for each mitzvah is so inconceivably vast that even the reward for a minor one is worthwhile. Do not say that I will only perform the major mitzvot and acquire the awards for them - the reward for even the lightest mitzvah is beyond our imagination. And when we think of the cost of keeping kosher, of not working on Shabbat, or of getting our clothes checked for shatnez, balance that against the infinite reward awaiting us.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Purim Spoof from Jewish Week

Jerusalem – A coalition of 33 Orthodox rabbis in Israel declared this week that the government’s plan to switch all television reception to a digital signal is forbidden and unacceptable.

“It requires converter boxes,” said group spokesman Rabbi Lazer Disk, “and we don’t recognize the converters as kosher.”

More details if you follow the link

Non traditional Purim observance

Shira has a checklist for Purim mitsvot, which focus on the traditional aspects. To complement her list, here is a checklist of supplementary/non-traditional purim practices:

1) Did your community have a Vashti dance to support domestic violence shelters?

2) Did you or your kids if any wear costumes either to shul or otherwise during the day? If so, what did you or your kids go as?

3) Did your community have a purim shpeil? After, before, during, or instead of the Megillah reading?

4) Did anyone give Purim Torah, either at the seudah or elsewhere?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Purim torah 5769 - 2

Hilchot Purim for Women

1) On Purim women are obligated to drink until they no longer remember they have only 4 weeks to clean for Pesach

Purim Torah 5769 - 1

If not for the feminist impulse, no woman would attend shabbat services, study practical halachot, or teach their children good middot.

In the 1970s the gedolim prayed for the feminist impulse to be taken away. It was only removed from them, and with its removal common sense vanished and they issued chumrah after chumrah as without the feminist impulse they also lost their rachmones.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

If there were a bracha on being made president ...

I would know the answer, but is the rule safek neder l'kula or safek neder l'chumra?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Forbidden mixtures: A PG rated story of issur and heter

A work in progress. :>)

"And your name is?"
"K'Ikkar. Taam K'Ikkar."
The beautiful octoroon licked her lips. "Tasty." she murmured.