Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Baalei Teshuva - Hurting their feelings


There is a clear halacha that it is a Torah prohibition to remind a baal teshuva of his past (Shulchan Aruch C.M. 428:4) - this is from the following gemora.


Bava Metzia (58b):If a man is a penitent, one must not say to him, ‘Remember your former deeds.’ If he is the son of proselytes he must not be taunted with, ‘Remember the deeds of your ancestors. If he is a proselyte and comes to study the Torah, one must not say to him, ‘Shall the mouth that ate unclean and forbidden food,14 abominable and creeping things, come to study the Torah which was uttered by the mouth of Omnipotence!’ If he is visited by suffering, afflicted with disease, or has buried his children, one must not speak to him as his companions spoke to Job, is not thy fear [of God] thy confidence, And thy hope the integrity of thy ways? Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent?1

My question is how to explain Rav Yochanon's behavior with Reish Lakish which resulted in them both dying - as is described in the following gemora?

Bava Metzia (84a): One day R. Johanan was bathing in the Jordan, when Resh Lakish saw him and leapt into the Jordan after him. Said he [R. Johanan] to him, ‘Your strength should be for the Torah.’13 — ‘Your beauty,’ he replied, ‘should be for women.’ ‘If you will repent,’ said he, ‘I will give you my sister [in marriage], who is more beautiful than I.’ He undertook [to repent]; then he wished to return and collect his weapons, but could not.14 Subsequently, [R. Johanan] taught him Bible and Mishnah, and made him into a great man. Now, one day there was a dispute in the schoolhouse [with respect to the following. Viz.,] a sword, knife, dagger, spear, hand-saw and a scythe — at what stage [of their manufacture] can they become unclean? When their manufacture is finished.15 And when is their manufacture finished? — R. Johanan ruled: When they are tempered in a furnace. Resh Lakish maintained: When they have been furbished in water. Said he to him: ‘A robber understands his trade.’16 Said he to him, ‘And wherewith have you benefited me: there [as a robber] I was called Master, and here I am called Master.’17 ‘By bringing you under the wings of the Shechinah,’ he retorted. R. Johanan therefore felt himself deeply hurt,18 [as a result of which] Resh Lakish fell ill. His sister [sc. R. Johanan's, the wife of Resh Lakish] came and wept before him: ‘Forgive him19 for the sake of my son,’ she pleaded. He replied: ‘Leave thy fatherless children. I will preserve them alive.’20 ‘For the sake of my widowhood then!’ ‘And let thy widows trust in me,’21 he assured her. Resh Lakish died, and R. Johanan was plunged into deep grief. Said the Rabbis, ‘Who shall go to ease his mind? Let R. Eleazar b. Pedath go, whose disquisitions are very subtle.’ So he went and sat before him; and on every dictum uttered by R. Johanan he observed: ‘There is a Baraitha which Supports you.’ ‘Are you as the son of Lakisha?’22 he complained: ‘when I stated a law, the son of Lakisha used to raise twenty-four objections, to which I gave twenty-four answers, which consequently led to a fuller comprehension of the law; whilst you say, "A Baraitha has been taught which supports you:" do I not know myself that my dicta are right?’ Thus he went on rending his garments and weeping, ‘Where are you, O son of Lakisha, where are you, O son of Lakisha;’ and he cried thus until his mind was turned. Thereupon the Rabbis prayed for him, and he died.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bailout - Chrysler says thanks with expensive ads


Fox News reports:


Chrysler is facing a backlash from taxpayers and conservative groups after the ailing auto company took out a series of full-page newspaper ads last week to thank Americans for "investing" in the company through the government's $17.4 billion auto industry bailout plan.

Critics say the company, which is expected to receive about $4 billion of that bailout money in the near term, should not be spending its already limited resources on pricey advertisements.

"It's quite ridiculous to be spending that kind of money," said Princella Smith, national spokeswoman for American Solutions, an organization headed by former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. "Those ads are just a precise example of the fact that they do not get it ... and it's just in our faces."

The ads ran last week in several major daily newspapers, including USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Since USA Today and The Wall Street Journal are two of the highest-circulation newspapers in the country, full-page ad rates are steep. A full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal runs between $206,000 and $264,000, and a full-page ad in USA Today runs between $112,000 and $217,000. [...]

Bailout - $25 million parachute


A former top executive at Merrill Lynch who received a $25 million golden parachute after just three months of work has purchased a $37 million Park Avenue palace.

Peter Kraus, 55, paid the staggering sum for a five-bedroom co-op on New York's posh Park Avenue after getting a $25 million buyout from Merrill Lynch when the company was sold to Bank of America in September, the New York Post reported.

Click here to see more photos of the $37 million palace.

The 15-room apartment — featuring 11-foot-high ceilings, four fireplaces, three maid's rooms, a mahogany-paneled library and a gym upstairs — sold for twice what the previous owners, Democratic fund-raisers Carl Spielvogel and Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, paid for it nearly two years ago, the Post reported.

Although he did not officially start work until September, Kraus hit it big after just a couple of days in office, when the Merrill Lynch's CEO sold the company to Bank of America for $50 billion during the market meltdown. [...]

Chabad - R' Holtzberg's son niftar


Does Chabad utilize Dor Yeshorim?

Haaretz reports

Another tragedy befell the family of Mumbai attack victims Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg on Tuesday, as long-term illness claimed the life of the couple's 4-year-old son.

Dov Holtzberg, the brother of Moshe who was saved from the terrorist attack in Mumbai last month by his Indian nanny, had been struggling with a genetic illness since birth.

Over the past few years, while his parents and younger brother resided in the Chabad House in Mumbai, Dov had been hospitalized at a nursing institution in Israel under the care of his grandparents.

His body will be laid to rest later on Tuesday in Jerusalem, next to his parents and his older brother Menachem, who died from the same genetic illness.[...]

Holocaust denial & hoaxes


Time Magazine reported:
[see also NY Times]

O No. After inviting Holocaust survivor Herman Rosenblat on her show not once, but twice, to promote his memoir Angel at the Fence, Oprah Winfrey proclaimed his memoir "the single greatest love story" she had ever heard. But like James Frey, the Oprah-endorsed author of yore, Rosenblat apparently took it upon himself to "embellish" his life story a bit. That part about meeting his wife after she began secretly tossing apples and bread to him over the fence at the Buchenwald concentration camp? Not true. (Never mind that the book's entire plot, not to mention its title, revolves around this claim). After several Holocaust scholars questioned the book's authenticity (noting that the layout of Buchenwald would not have permitted such clandestine exchanges) and The New Republic published a lengthy article debunking many of the book's central points, Rosenblat fessed up. "I wanted to bring happiness to people," the author explained through his agent a day before the book's publisher decided to cancel the upcoming release. Looks like Rosenblat is destined to join the ranks of disgraced Holocaust author Misha Defonseca, whose A Memoir of the Holocaust Years about escaping the Nazis and being raised by wolves turned out to be — shockingly — not true in the least.

Psychology of Evil - Milgram study II

NYTimes

[...] The Milgram experiment’s startling result — as anyone who has taken a college psychology course knows — was that ordinary people were willing to administer a lot of pain to innocent strangers if an authority figure instructed them to do so. More than 80 percent of participants continued after administering the 150-volt shock, and 65 percent went all the way up to 450 volts.

Jerry Burger of Santa Clara University replicated the experiment and has now published his findings in American Psychologist. He made one slight change in the protocol, in deference to ethical standards developed since 1963. He stopped when a participant believed he had administered a 150-volt shock. (He also screened out people familiar with the original experiment.)

Professor Burger’s results were nearly identical to Professor Milgram’s. Seventy percent of his participants administered the 150-volt shock and had to be stopped. That is less than in the original experiment, but not enough to be significant.

Much has changed since 1963. The civil rights and antiwar movements taught Americans to question authority. Institutions that were once accorded great deference — including the government and the military — are now eyed warily. Yet it appears that ordinary Americans are about as willing to blindly follow orders to inflict pain on an innocent stranger as they were four decades ago.

Professor Burger was not surprised. He believes that the mindset of the individual participant — including cultural influences — is less important than the “situational features” that Professor Milgram shrewdly built into his experiment. These include having the authority figure take responsibility for the decision to administer the shock, and having the participant increase the voltage gradually. It is hard to say no to administering a 195-volt shock when you have just given a 180-volt shock.

The results of both experiments pose a challenge. If this is how most people behave, how do we prevent more Holocausts, Abu Ghraibs and other examples of wanton cruelty? Part of the answer, Professor Burger argues, is teaching people about the experiment so they will know to be on guard against these tendencies, in themselves and others.[...]

Chazal I - Agada & R' Hirsch

In our discussion of the meaning of Chanuka, I was asked about the relationship between views of Achronim and Chazal - in particular about R. S. R. Hirsch's view. This is an excerpt from his letter that he wrote on the subject. This is more fully presented in Daas Torah pages 225-236

Rav S. R. Hirsch[i](Letter on Agada): Without doubt the greatness and loftiness of the wisdom and ethics of our Sages found in their Agada and Medrash is beyond measure. It is certain that they planted in their orchards of wisdom the knowledge and understanding that their pure spirits drew from the springs of Torah and mitzvos. That is why they glorified and praised the words of Agada which draws a person’s heart and brings him to love his Father in Heaven. In addition, since even the ordinary conversation of a Torah scholar needs to be studied, so surely this is true of the statements our Sages made with the intent of teaching and improving us. There is nothing in Agada which is meaningless and if it seems that way it is entirely because of our inability to comprehend. Nevertheless, our Sages put a great barrier between Agada and Halacha by stating that one does not learn Halacha from Agada and that Agadic statements do not have to be consistent with each other. This makes sense in my opinion since Agadic statements are not built upon Tradition from Sinai which is the basis for the covenant that was created there. They are in fact based entirely upon the individual human reasoning of wise men. It is quite obvious that any genuinely intelligent person will readily submit to each and every one of our Sages even for matters that are not from Tradition but concerning human reasoning. Furthermore, each one of our Sages is greater than all of us put together and that we are like grasshoppers in relationship to their greatness. Nevertheless, Agada is not part of our obligation to accept as Jews. Therefore, if a person’s reasoning leads him to reject any statement of Agada he is not considered as a heretic. This is especially true since that the Sages themselves differ on so many issues and there is no rule whose view is authoritative as there is concerning halacha.


[i] רב ש. ר. הירש (על הגדות חז"ל תרגום ע"י ר' מ. ברויאר המעין יז:ב ע' א-טז): באין ספק אין ערך לגודל ורוממות החכמה והמוסר אשר המציאו לנו חז"ל בדברי אגדותם ומדרשיהם, וודאי כל מי בינה ודעת ששאבה רוחם הטהור והנעלה ממעיני התורה והמצוות נטעו נטעי נאמנים בתוך ערוגת פרדסיהם. ועל כן פיארו ושבחו חז"ל דברי האגדה שהם מושכין לב האדם ומביאין אותו לאהוב את אביהו שבשמים. ואם אפי' שיחת חולין של ת"ח צריכין לימוד ק"ו לכל הדברים שאמרו בכוונה דרך לימוד ומוסר, ואין בו דבר ריק, ואם ריק הוא ממנו הוא, ששכלנו קצר מהשיג. ומ"מ גדר גדול גדרו חז"ל וחומה נשגבה ובצורה הקימו בין דברי השמועה וההלכה וכלל גדול מסרו לידינו: אין למדין הלכה מן דברי האגדה ואין משיבין מהם ועליהם. וכן בדין לענ"ד, דהא מבלד שכל דברי האגדה אינם מיוסדים על קבלה מסיני שעליה נכרת ברית הנעשה והנשמע אלא רק סברת [החכם] המגיד הם באומד דעתו, ואף שודאי מי שיש לו מוח בקדקדו ולב אדם להבין ולהשכיל בלב שמח ונפש חפצה יכוף ראשו לדעת כל חכם וחכם מחז"ל, אף שאינו מבאר הקבלה אלא מרוח בינתו הוציא מלין, אשר כל אחד ואחד מהם גדול ונשגב מכולנו יחדיו אשר כחגבים נדמינו בעינינו נגדם, מ"מ אינו מכלל חיוב הישראלי, וגם לא כמין וכופר יחשב מי שסברתו נוטה מסברת אחד מחכמינו ז"ל בענין מה השייך להאגדה, בפרט שגם בהרבה מקומות דעתם שונה זו מזו ולא נאמר כלל הכלה כדברי פלוני באגדה כמו בשמעתתא.


Religion & self-control /scientific evidence

NY Times reports:

If I’m serious about keeping my New Year’s resolutions in 2009, should I add another one? Should the to-do list include, “Start going to church”?

This is an awkward question for a heathen to contemplate, but I felt obliged to raise it with Michael McCullough after reading his report in the upcoming issue of the Psychological Bulletin. He and a fellow psychologist at the University of Miami, Brian Willoughby, have reviewed eight decades of research and concluded that religious belief and piety promote self-control.

This sounded to me uncomfortably similar to the conclusion of the nuns who taught me in grade school, but Dr. McCullough has no evangelical motives. He confesses to not being much of a devotee himself. “When it comes to religion,” he said, “professionally, I’m a fan, but personally, I don’t get down on the field much.”

His professional interest arose from a desire to understand why religion evolved and why it seems to help so many people. Researchers around the world have repeatedly found that devoutly religious people tend to do better in school, live longer, have more satisfying marriages and be generally happier.

These results have been ascribed to the rules imposed on believers and to the social support they receive from fellow worshipers, but these external factors didn’t account for all the benefits. In the new paper, the Miami psychologists surveyed the literature to test the proposition that religion gives people internal strength.

“We simply asked if there was good evidence that people who are more religious have more self-control,” Dr. McCullough. “For a long time it wasn’t cool for social scientists to study religion, but some researchers were quietly chugging along for decades. When you add it all up, it turns out there are remarkably consistent findings that religiosity correlates with higher self-control.” [...]

Chanuka in Mumbai


One Thousand Look On As Chabad kindles menorah in Mumbai

Lubavitch.com. Referred by R' Oliver

Mumbai, India—December 25--At the Gates of India Thursday evening, a crowd of approximately 1000 looked on in respectful curiosity as the fathers of the slain Gabi and Rivka Holtzberg lit the menorah.

The menorah lighting on this fifth night of Chanukah drew the attention of local Indians and visitors who frequented the Mumbai Chabad House, many still reeling from the recent terror attacks that put it in the limelight.

"This was the most moving menorah lighting I have ever been to," Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice Chairman of the Chabad-Lubavitch educational division, who flew from New York to participate, told Lubavitch.com

Earlier in the evening, in a more poignant setting, family, colleagues and friends of Gabi and Rivka who had come from Israel, New York, and other parts of the region, met at the Chabad House. The Chabad House is now in shambles, with signs of the calamity everywhere. As if to defy the aims to destroy this center of hospitality, the intimate group went up to the rooftop for an impromptu Chasidic farbrengen.

In a gesture richly symbolic of Chabad's determination not to let the evil of terror extinguish the light of Gabi and Rivkah, the hands of their parents reached out from the windows of the Chabad House—its façade now a familiar image to millions who had seen it under siege—to kindle its lights.

When asked by reporters if "Chabad is coming back to Mumbai," Rabbi Kotlarsky said, "We never left."

The Holtzbergs and the Rosenbergs are an inspiration, many say, determined as they are despite their great grief, to see Chabad's activities in Mumbai grow, and to ensure, says Rabbi Kotlarsky, that "The light of kindness and warmth that Gabi and Rivka radiated and that is yet very much alive, continues."

Monday, December 29, 2008

Ashkenazim are true Jews!


Nofia Vered Shem-Tov 's comment to "Descendants of Marranos (Anousim) - should they be...":

I am shocked and appalled that someone with the name "sephardi pride" would DARE insinuate that Ashkenazim aren't true Jews! and that it was let go with no reply or comment from anyone!!!

Does sephardi pride know that Avraham and Sarah were the first converts to Judaism?

Aside from that being proud of being Sephardi does not allow one to make outlandish comments or accusations that Jews aren't Jews!!!

Sephardi Pride is a bat anusah who is not being allowed to go to Mikvah because she has yet to convince any rabbi that she should be allowed to go. That she suffers emotional pain and feelings of rejection is understandable, but to call Jews Goyim is unacceptable and disgusting. With "Jews" like you who needs Goyim sephardi pride?

My own family is from Poland, and half Sephardi ()yes, there were Sephardim in Poland people!!!) and half Ashkenazi. All the Ashkenazis assimilated and the Sephardi Jews stayed religious. I decided to align myself with the Sephardi part because after hearing my case and that my father isn't Jewish a Beit Din gave me permission. But I would never go as far as to accuse my Ashkeazi relatives of being non-Jewish and not descendants of Avraham!!

The reason we have lasted as Jews for 3500 years is precisely because Judaism is NOT Christianity, we are not a faith only religion. We tell our children to be Jewish based on a hand written fact - the Torah, the five books of Moses, that has been passed down from generation to generation, since we first stood at Mt. Sinai. We don't ask our children to accept Judaism on faith, but on fact, on evidence of our dedication to keep laws that Hashem gave us over 3500 years ago.

All adult Jews were required to undergo their own conversion at Sinai, including immersion in a Mikvah. Men were also required to undergo circumcision. These are the same exact requirements we demand of converts today - that they, too, undergo the "Sinai treatment". It is understood that the Kuzars - if they even existed at all - did the same. I find it ridiculous that a fictitious group of people written about by one rabbi can all of a sudden be the so-called appointed ancestors of the Jewish people, and used by Sephardim to say Ashkenazis aren't Jews, when we have no actual evidence that Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi was actually writing about real people!!! Keep your fact and fiction straight people!!! Yehuda HaLevi was understood to be using a very large allegory for his writings.

Chanuka & Philosophy - Philosophy is Jewish


In the discussion of Chanuka and philosophy - it is important to realize that there are solid Jewish sources that philosophy originated with the Jews. The following sources are taken from my Daas Torah page 140

Kuzari(2:66): Shlomo spoke—with Divine power and his great intellect and natural talents—concerning all types of knowledge. From the ends of the earth, people came to him to hear his knowledge and to transmit it to the world—even as far as India. In truth the root of all wisdom and its principles was copied from the Jews—first by the Chaldeans and afterwards the Persians and Medes. Afterwards this knowledge went to the Greeks and Romans. However, because these events are distant in time and the many intermediaries in the process it has not been mentioned in the books of science and wisdom that it was taken originally from the Jews. These books mention only that they originated in Greek and Roman sources. …

Rema(Toras HaOlah 1:11): In truth all the wisdom of philosophy and intellectual analysis originated from the Jews. All the secular wisdom is in fact contained within the Torah as the Rambam demonstrates in great detail in the Moreh Nevuchim that all philosophical wisdom is found in the medrash and aggados of our Sages. You should know that I saw a very ancient document that described the development of all philosophy. It stated that Socrates was considered the first philosopher. It also says that he obtained this wisdom from Assaf and from Achitofel. It also says in the Paths of Faith that the philosophy of Aristotle was stolen from the wisdom of Shlomo HaMelech. When Alexander the Great captured Jerusalem, he gave control of Shlomo HaMelech’s library to his teacher Aristotle. Whatever good things he found there he wrote his name on it and then added some of his own incorrect thoughts such as the world had no beginning and the denial of Providence. This was done in order to conceal the fact that his material was in fact stolen from the wisdom of the Jews. Alternatively, it is possible that whatever he found that did not have clear—cut proofs in the works of Shlomo he simply did not believe. We see however that the basis of all wisdom hangs from this vine. In truth, every Jew should believe in this system and not to give a pride and glory to strangers—the wise men of the gentiles. In fact, Shlomo was praised for being able to speak to the cedars of Lebanon and the hyssop growing on the wall. If it hadn’t been for the fact that the basis of this wisdom was stolen from him, there would be nothing praiseworthy in Aristotle and those that came after him…Therefore it is proper to believe in these things. Just as we have written that is the way it is.

כוזרי (ב:סו): אמר החבר: ומה דעתך על חכמת שלמה כי הוא דבר בכח אלוהי וברב שכלו ובכשר טבעו על כל החכמות ומקצוות העולם היו באים אליו לשמע חכמתו ולהעבירה אל האמות עד להדו ועד בכלל. ובאמת שרשי כל החכמות וכלליהן העתקו מאתנו אל הכשדים בראשונה ואחרי כן אל פרס ומדי ואחרי כן אל יון ואחרי כן אל רומא אך מפאת רחק הזמן ורבוי המעתיקים לא הזכר בספרי החכמות כי העתקו מעברית הזכר רק כי העתקו מיונית ומרומית אולם יתרון העברית הוא גם מצד עצם הלשון וגם מצד תכן הענינים הכלולים בה:

[iii] רמ"א (תורת העולה א:יא עמוד י"ג)...כי באמת כל חכמת הפילוסופי' והחוקרים בא להן מישראל. וכל חכמתן כלול בתורה כמו שהאריך הרב המורה להורות שכל החכמות הפילוסופי' נמצא במדשרי חז"ל ואגדותיהן. ודע כי ראיתי בספר אחד ישן מאד והיו מצויירין בו כל הפילוסופי' בצורתן וחכמתן איך המציאן והיה כתוב בו שב' אקרוט שהוא שקראוהו הפילוסופי' סקרא"ט האלהי להיותו שהוא המציא בראשונה בפלוסופיא שיש נמצא נבדל: ואחריו נמשכו הפלוסופי' האחרי' וכתב שם שהוא קבל החכמה מאסף הקרחי ומאחיתופל. ועוד כתב בשבילי אמונה כי כל עיקר חכמת ארסטוטליס גנוב' מחכמת שלמה ע"ה. כי כאשר כבש אלכסנדרוס מוקדן ירושלים השליט לאריסטוטלס רבו על אוצר ספרי שלמה וכל דבר טוב שמצא בהן כתב שמו עליו ועירב בהן מקצת דעות רעות כמו קדמות העולם. וכפיר' השגחת כדי לחפו' עליו שלא ידעו הבריות שבאו אחריו שגנב החכמה מיהודי ואפשר שכל דבר שלא מצא עליו מופת חותך בדברי שלמה לא האמינו. ומכל מקום נתבאר שכל החכמות תלויים בגפן זה ובאמת שכל בר ישראל ראוי להאמין אמונה זו ולא לתת תהלתינו ותפארתינו לזרים חכמי הגוים. והרי הכתוב שבח שלמה ע"ה שדבר על ארז בלבנון ועל האזוב אשר בקיר ואי לא היתה עיקר חכמה זו גנוב מאתו מה היתה מעלתו על אירסטוטלוס והבאים אחריו שחקרו על כל טבע וטבע כמו שנתבאר בדבריהם לכן ראוי להאמין בדברים האלה כמו שכתבנו כן הוא.

Knife attack in Kiryat Sefer




Haaretz reports YNET reports:

A Palestinian laborer on Monday morning stabbed three Israelis in the ultra-Orthodox town of Kiryat Sefer, which lies near Modi'in. One of the wounded was reported in serious condition.

Another Israeli was later found wounded after suffering stab wounds at the hands of another Palestinian.

The first Palestinian stabber, who works as an air conditioner technician, attempted to flee following the attack. Armed civilians nearby opened fire, wounding him moderately before taking him into custody [...]

Lakewood - Beis Feige/ (was concert banned)



Hamercaz reports: [forwarded by RaP] Also reported here.

Lakewood, N.J. -- In a surprising, last-minute move, the Roshei Yeshiva and Mashgiach of Lakewood's Beis Medrash Gavoha, the largest Yeshiva in the world outside of Israel, issued a ban of a women's entertainment event that took place in Lakewood's Beis Yaakov High School Sunday night.

The event, entitled "Comedance", was billed as a show illustrating "the journey of life through comedy and dance", and featured women performers singing and dancing in front of an all-female audience. Although the performance met with no opposition when it took place at Boro Park and other venues in prior weeks, that was not the case in Lakewood.

An automated phone call recording reached thousands of Lakewood homes Sunday evening, notifying all household that the Roshei Yeshiva and Mashgiach, R' Kotler, Neuman, Schustal, Olshin and Salomon, had issued a ruling that the performance should not be attended. Ironically, this followed similar automated calls on behalf of the producers of the show that had been placed just hours before, reminding local women and girls to attend the event, which was advertised as a benefit for Tzedaka R' Meir Ba'al HaNes.[...]

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Child abuse - Mondrowitz ABC News



ABC News reports:

Oct. 11 2006

Retired New York Police Department Det. Pat Kehoe still remembers a phone call she got more than 20 years ago, from a person making allegations that a rabbi was sexually abusing children in his neighborhood.

"I never received a call like that in my whole career in the New York City Police Department. Never," Kehoe told Cynthia McFadden in a recent interview.

"I'll never forget it because unfortunately it was my birthday, November 21 1984. I was working in the Brooklyn Sex Crimes squad and I received an anonymous call from a male who started to say that there was a rabbi and gave the name and he was abusing people on this block," she said.

Rabbi Avrohom Mondrowitz, as he called himself, lived on a tree-lined block in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn. Kehoe and her partner, Sal Catafulmo, went out to the neighborhood where Italians and Hasidic Jews lived side-by-side.

At one of the first addresses they tried, she says a resident told her "Everyone knows Rabbi Mondrowitz. He's good to all our children. He buys them bicycles and takes them away on weekends and things."

That might sound like a recommendation, but not to Kehoe. "With that information I got very scared," she said. Kehoe's background in an NYPD pedophilia squad taught her to recognize the signs of pedophilia."Pedophiles have a pattern with children to get their confidence and send their so-called love, you might say, and buy them things," she said. What she heard from the children themselves only confirmed her gut feelings.

"We brought them in without their parents," Kehoe said. "They started to tell us, 'The rabbi is our friend. He takes us away,' and things like that. As the questions became more difficult for the children -- 'Did anything ever happen? Did anything sexual ever happen? Are you aware of it happening to anyone else while you were there?' -- they all broke down and cried, each one separately."[...]

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Chanuka & Greek Philosophy - Any relationship?



Shabbos (21b): What is [the reason of] Hanukkah? For our Rabbis taught: On the twenty-fifth of Kislew22 [commence] the days of Hanukkah, which are eight on which a lamentation for the dead and fasting are forbidden.23 For when the Greeks entered the Temple, they defiled all the oils therein, and when the Hasmonean dynasty prevailed against and defeated them, they made search and found only one cruse of oil which lay with the seal of the High Priest,24 but which contained sufficient for one day's lighting only; yet a miracle was wrought therein and they lit [the lamp] therewith for eight days. The following year these [days] were appointed a Festival with [the recital of] Hallel25 and thanksgiving.


The gemora directly asks about the nature of Chanukah and answers that Chanukah is to commemorate the miracle of the oil burning in the Temple.

Similarly the Rambam(Hilchos Chanuka 3:1-3):
רמב"ם הלכות מגילה וחנוכה פרק ג

הלכה א
בבית שני כשמלכו יון גזרו גזרות על ישראל ובטלו דתם ולא הניחו אותם לעסוק בתורה ובמצות, ופשטו ידם בממונם ובבנותיהם ונכנסו להיכל ופרצו בו פרצות וטמאו הטהרות, וצר להם לישראל מאד מפניהם ולחצום לחץ גדול עד שריחם עליהם אלהי אבותינו והושיעם מידם והצילם וגברו בני חשמונאי הכהנים הגדולים והרגום והושיעו ישראל מידם והעמידו מלך מן הכהנים וחזרה מלכות לישראל יתר על מאתים שנה עד החורבן השני.

הלכה ב
וכשגברו ישראל על אויביהם ואבדום בחמשה ועשרים בחדש כסלו היה ונכנסו להיכל ולא מצאו שמן טהור במקדש אלא פך אחד ולא היה בו להדליק אלא יום אחד בלבד והדליקו ממנו נרות המערכה שמונה ימים עד שכתשו זיתים והוציאו שמן טהור.

הלכה ג
ומפני זה התקינו חכמים שבאותו הדור שיהיו שמונת הימים האלו שתחלתן מליל חמשה ועשרים בכסלו ימי שמחה והלל ומדליקין בהן הנרות בערב על פתחי הבתים בכל לילה ולילה משמונת הלילות להראות ולגלות הנס, וימים אלו הן הנקראין חנוכה והן אסורין בהספד ותענית כימי הפורים, והדלקת הנרות בהן מצוה מדברי סופרים כקריאת המגילה

The standard sources all indicate that the Syrians were trying to stop Jews from keeping Torah and mitzvos and that Chanukah was commemoration of the tremendous mesiras nefesh the Jews displayed in trying to observe the Torah.

My question - what is the source of the common understanding that Chanukah was a battle against Greek philosophy and secular knowledge?

Response to Gaza attacks at last!




Haaretz reports:

Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip fired at least 54 Qassam and Grad rockets into southern Israel on Saturday after Israeli air strikes killed more than 195 Palestinians in Gaza, according to Palestinian sources.

A home in the town of Netivot was hit by a grad missile, killing one and leaving four with moderate to serious injuries.

One rocket struck just outside Kiryat Gat, some 20 kilometers from Gaza. The strike marked the first time in the eight years since Hamas has been firing rockets into Israel that a rocket has struck the southern Israeli city. [...]

Friday, December 26, 2008

Abuse - no prohibiton against revenge

Yoma (23a): R’ Yochanon said in the name of R’ Shimon ben Yehotzadak: “Any talmid chachom who does not avenge himself and bear a grudge like a serpent is not a real talmid chachom.” But how could that be since there is a Torah prohibition against revenge and bearing grudge (Vayikra 19:18)? That is only applicable to monetary issues. This has been taught in a braissa: “What is revenge and what is bearing a grudge? An example of revenge is when someone asks to borrow a sickle and is refused. The next day when the one who was refused is asked by the same person if he can borrow an axe and is told that he won’t lend it since the other didn’t lend him his sickle. An example of bearing a grudge is if someone asked to borrow his ax and was told no. The next day the one who refused to lend asks the other person to lend him his garment. He lends him the garment but adds – “I am not like you who didn’t lend me what I asked for.” But doesn’t this Torah prohibition also apply to personal insult? Hasn’t it been taught concerning those who are insulted but do not reciprocate by insulting, those who hear degrading comments without replying, who do good deeds out of love for G‑d and rejoice in their suffering – that the Bible (Shoftim 5:31): But they that love Him be as the sun when it goes forth in his might. That means simply that he doesn’t express his feelings but nevertheless bears a grudge in his heart. But Rava has said that he who does not retaliate against others has all his sins passed over! That is referring only to the case where the perpetrator has asked for forgiveness and has been in fact forgiven.

יומא (כג.): ואמר רבי יוחנן משום רבי שמעון בן יהוצדק: כל תלמיד חכם שאינו נוקם ונוטר כנחש - אינו תלמיד חכם. - והכתיב לא תקם ולא תטר! - ההוא בממון הוא דכתיב. דתניא: איזו היא נקימה ואיזו היא נטירה? נקימה, אמר לו: השאילני מגלך, - אמר לו: לאו. למחר אמר לו הוא: השאילני קרדומך! - אמר לו: איני משאילך, כדרך שלא השאלתני - זו היא נקימה. ואיזו היא נטירה? אמר לו: השאילני קרדומך! - אמר ליה: לא. למחר אמר לו: השאילני חלוקך! - אמר לו: הילך, איני כמותך, שלא השאלתני - זו היא נטירה. - וצערא דגופא לא? והא תניא: הנעלבין ואינן עולבין, שומעין חרפתן ואינן משיבין, עושין מאהבה ושמחין ביסורין - עליהן הכתוב אומר (שופטים ה:לא) ואהביו כצאת השמש בגברתו! - לעולם דנקיט ליה בליביה. - והאמר רבא: כל המעביר על מדותיו - מעבירין לו על כל פשעיו! - דמפייסו ליה ומפייס.