Sunday, November 30, 2008

Rabbi & Mrs. Holtzberg HY"D/Reminiscences

Prof. Isaac Balbin shares his personal memories - must read

In the beginning, Reb Gavriel and Rivki had a choice between Melbourne and Mumbai. They chose Mumbai. Hashem planned that our paths would cross one way or another.

Parshas Toldos in Melbourne, Australia has just concluded. It is a cool and quiet evening. After two days of frantic searching, the information I was dreading reached me via SMS on that morning. One of my colleagues in Mumbai had been sending me updates, as were my past students who had travelled to the Chabad House, at my request. I saw the words “we now pray for their souls, I am sorry” flash up momentarily on my phone only to quickly disappear. It was Shabbos and I couldn’t touch my cell phone. Frankly, I didn’t even want to. Instinctively, I knew what had happened—a nightmare on Hormusji Street [...]

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ramban & his wayward son?

The following story about the Ramban is found in Kav HaYashor chapter 81. Does anyone know of a source for this astounding tale? [see Haaretz]
ספר קב הישר - פרק פא

ראיה שמעתי מעשה נפלא שהרמב"ן ז"ל כתב בספרו דרוש אחד ואמר, "כל בר ישראל שהמיר דתו ועובד איזה ע"ז מן האומות אזי צריך לידע שאותו הבן אינו מזרע ישראל הוא, כי בוודאי הוא מזרע האומות או בן תמורה, ולא היו ימים מועטים עד שהמיר בן אחד מבני הרמב"ן את דתו, ואז שלח האפיפיור אחר הרמב"ן ואמר ראה הדרוש שלך שנדפס מקרוב ועתה נכשל זרעך בדבריך, ואז הלך הרב הרמב"ן ז"ל לביתו סר וזעף וכשבא לביתו היה יושב ובוכה על הארץ והיה מסגף בסיגופים גדולים והיה יותר מצער על הדרוש שהדפיס יותר מצער בנו שהמיר דתו, ולא היה אוכל ושותה כמה ימים, עד שבאה אשתו אליו והיתה מדברת על לבו שלא יהיה בצער כי פעם אחת היתה הולכת לבית הטבילה שהיה רחוק מביתה כשהיה לילה היתה רוצה לילך לבית בעלה אז ראה שר אחד את הוד יפיה וצוה השר לעבדיו שיקחו האשה לביתו והיה השר אונס אותה וממנו התעברה ואם לא תאמיט לי הרי יש אצבע שלו עדיין בידי שגרסתי בשיני את האצבע שלו, וכששמע הרב הרמב"ן ז"ל את דברי אשתו אז קם מהארץ והיה שמח שמחה גדולה ואמר לאשתו נחמתני, אז תכף אזר כגבר חלציו והלך להאפיפיור וספר לו דברים האלה, ותיכף שלח האפיפיור לאותו השר ובא אליו והיה על ידו בית היד שקורין הענטשי'ך וצוה האפיפיור להסיר ההענטשי'ך מעל ידו ולא רצה השר. ואז צוה האפיפיור לעבדיו להסיר בית היד שקורין הענשי"ך בחזקה מעל ידו אז ראה האפיפיור שחסר אצבע אחד מידיו, ושאל אותו מה טיבה של אצבע זו אז הודה השר שפעם אחת היה אונס אשת איש אחת מבני ישראל והיתה האשה גורסת את אצבעו בשיניה, אז אמר הרמב"ן "ראה שהתור' שלנו היא אמת ודברי חכמים ודברי ה' הן אמת".

All men are equal II - Critique & conclusion

What follows is my critique of the discussion between RaP and Rabbi Micha Berger. Pushing aside the smoke and mirrors in RaP's rhetoric it is obvious that his view is simply wrong and he has cited the Maharal out of context. What follows is first the main assertions of both sides with RaP's claim of victory because of his citation of the Maharal's views in chapter 1 of Tiferes Yisroel. Afterwards I discuss the issue and show citations from the Maharal and his student the Tosfos Yom Tov - which clearly reject the understanding that RaP has ascribed to the Maharal. Furthermore the Maharal - and the vast majority of Jewish sages - with the clear exception of the Baal HaTanya - state that all of mankind has a soul which distinguishes them from animals.


RaP’s original assertion was that non-Jews have no neshma i.e., they are a form of animals – which is in fact the view of the Tanya.

The gentile is NOT a "tinok shenishba" and has NO neshama while the Jew has a 100% holy neshama, which the converting gentile presumably desires.

Doesn't the RAMBAM say somewhere that the difference between a goy and yid is like the difference between a monkey and a human?

2) RaP - when criticized by Rabbi Berger - modified his view by saying that while they have a neshama but it is not as elevated as that of a Jew.

Judaism holds that a non-Jew does not have THAT neshama that a Jew does have and indeed it is exactly THAT neshama that the sincere potential convert wants to have and should/does get upon immersion in the Bais Din's mikva when THAT neshama that he did NOT have enters into him/her upon immersion in the mikva of geirus. That is all I was saying and there was no need of you to move the issue into illogical non-relevant humanistic and globalistic egalitarian drive, when you could have just let the obvious Halachic reality stand without unnecessary questioning by you.

micha said

... Every human being has a neshamah. Proof: "vayipach be'apav nishmas chayim -- and He breated into his [Adam's] nostriles a living neshamah".

RaP responded

Wow. Sure. But not every human being has THE nashama of ADAM KADMON of Gan Eden who was a unique Godly being. But have you not heard of "atem kruyim adam ve'ein umos ha'olam keruyim adam"? ("You [the Jews/Children of Israel] are called [the true] Adam, and not the nations of the world who are not called Adam").

Ok show me where they ALL say that a goy has the EXACT same NESHAMA as a Yid and the Yidden and Goyim are FULLY equal in spiritual make-up IN ALL ASPECTS, which would make the whole process of geirus a totally point-less, hope-less, use-less and soul-less going through the motions procedure.

R' Micha Berger responded

If you would have said that non-Jews lack a second element to their neshamah, I would not have objected.

3) When it was pointed out that RaP had modified his original assertion that non‑Jews have no soul, RaP reverted back to his original assertion and denied ever modifying his position. He then brought a Maharal in the end of the first chapter of Tiferes Yisroel.

micha said...

You're changing your story from saying that non-Jews do not have a neshamah to saying they do not have the same kind of neshamah. I wouldn't have objected had that been your original claim.

RaP countered by saying

Umm, I am not sure where you see this. I am not changing my mind about anything and if you re-read my comments above I say at least five times that a Jew has a neshama and a goy does not.

As is typical in these type of arguments, the importance of winning obscures the truth.

RaP then presented what he called his knock-out punch - the Maharal's comments at the end of Chapter 2 of Tiferes Yisroel



Anyone who studies the Maharal knows that it is necessary to see what he says throughout his writings to understand what his views are on any issue. I am surprised that RaP who claims to be familiar with the Maharal missed this rather obvious and well known point. The Maharal has the tendency of making extreme assertions which are then modified elsewhere. A listing of where he discusses the relationship between Jews and non-Jews can be found in the indices of Rabbi Hartman’s critical edition of the Maharal. For example in the second section of Be’er HaGolah footnotes 562-563.

It is clear from these sources that the Maharal does not agree with the views of the Baal HaTanya that non-Jews have only an animal – not a human soul. Furthermore RaP totally misunderstands the view of the Rambam – as the Tosfos Yom Tov I have cited below explains. The Rambam did not distinguish between Jews and non-Jews. He distinguished between learned people and the ignorant. He states in Moreh Nevuchim that ignorant people are like monkeys and elsewhere (3:51) he states that the highest level of man is the philosopher (not the talmid chocham). We find a related understanding in the Chovas HaLevavos (1:2): The philosopher was right when he said that, ‘No one is truly able to serve G‑d except the prophet of the generation by his nature or the greatest philosopher through his acquired wisdom. All the others are actually worshiping something else because they cannot conceive of a being who is not a composite rather than a true unity.

In sum. From what I have seen, it is only the view of the Baal HaTanya that only Jews have a soul which distinguishes than from animals while everyone else acknowledges the humanity of all men and talks about gradations which are primarily the result of accepting the Torah. Consequently any non-Jew who either wants to keep the mitzvos or wants to convert - is able to. The same is not said concerning a monkey.



The Maharal states in his commentary to this Mishna essential the view that R’ Micha Berger has been saying all along. That non-Jews are also in G‑d’s image tzelem Elokim but that after the Giving of the Torah – the spiritual perfection is epitomized by Jews. However he clearly states at the end of his commentary to this mishna:

“ Even though the mishna says, ‘beloved is the Man’ this does not include all of the species of man. That is because our Sages have already said that ‘you are called Man and the nations of the world are not called ‘Man”. As if the perfection of Creation is limited to man i.e., to Jews and not the nations as we have explained many times. It is the Jews who are specfically call Man and this is something extremely clear. Even though this level is not exclusively found only in Jews – as is alluded to by the fact that the mishna hears says ‘beloved is the man’ and it doesn’t say ‘beloved are the Jews’. But there is still a significant difference between Jews and non-Jews. Even though this characteristic is specifically applied to Jews, nevertheless the image of Man is also found amongst the nations of the world. The point is that the epitome of this image of Man is not found amongst the nations. Nevertheless we find this image of Man amongst all the peoples of the world. However relative to the Jews it is not considered of significance. That is why the mishna doesn’t say ‘beloved are the Jews who were created in the image of G-d.’ Furthermore when man was created this characteristic was existed in Adam and Noach – even though they were not characterized as Yisroel (Jews). And if after G‑d chose the Jews this image was reduced in the non-Jews, nevertheless the Divine image still exists in them as they are Man. This is quite obvious."

ספר דרך חיים - פרק ג משנה יד

חביב האדם. מקשין על זה שאמר חביב האדם שנברא בצלם אלהים וגו', ואחר כך אמר חבה יתירה נודעת לו וכו', מה בא להוסיף שאמר חבה יתירה נודעת לו בודאי מאחר שנברא בצלם אלהים דבר זה נודע לו. וכן קשיא אצל חביבין ישראל שנקראו בנים, כי מה בא להוסיף במה שאמר חבה יתירה נודעת לו ובודאי כיון שנקראו בנים למקום דבר זה נודע לו, ועוד קשיא שמביא ראיה כי בצלם אלהים עשה את האדם והיה לו להביא ראיה ממה שאמר ויברא אלהים את האדם בצלמו, וכן קשה דמביא בנים אתם לד' אלהיכם ולמה לא הביא מקרא דכתיב (שמות ד') בני בכורי ישראל, ועוד קשיא שאמר חביבין ישראל שנתן להם כלי חמדה וגו', כי לפי הנראה כי הכל הוא חבה אחת כי בשביל שהם בנים למקום נתן להם התורה שהיא כלי חמדה, ועוד מאי כלי חמדה דקאמר כי למה קראו התורה כלי חמדה. ועוד עיקר הפירוש של בצלם אלהים נברא האדם לא ידענו מה הוא הצלם הזה, שאם פירוש הצלם תאר הגוף דבר זה אין לומר כלל שיהיה מיוחס אל השם יתברך תאר וצורת הגוף, ואם פירושו שנברא האדם בצלם אלהים היינו השכל שבאדם וכמו שפירש הרמב"ם ז"ל הצלם שנזכר בכתוב, דבר זה אין מוכח כך, כי מה שנאמר כאן חביב האדם על כרחך פירושו שהוא חביב אף מן המלאכים, כי מה שהאדם חביב מן הבהמה וכי דבר זה צריך לומר ועל כרחך פירושו שהאדם חביב אף מן המלאכים וכמו שיתבאר, ובודאי יש במלאכים דעת וחכמה. ואפילו אם תאמר כי לא בא לומר רק כי יש לאדם המעלה היתירה שהוא בתחתונים, מכל מקום היה זה נכלל במה שאמר חביב האדם שנתן להם התורה שהתורה בודאי חכמה ודעת ולכך מוכרח לומר כי דבר זה ענין בפני עצמו:


ואף שאמר חביב האדם, אין זה כולל כל מין האדם, כי כבר אמרו ז"ל כי אתם קרוים אדם ואין האומות קרוים אדם, כאלו שלימות הבריאה שהוא לאדם בפרט, הוא לישראל לא לאומות, כאשר בארנו פעמים הרבה, מה שישראל בפרט נקראים אדם, והוא דבר ברור מאד. ואף כי מעלה זאת אינה רק לישראל בלבד, אמר על זה חביב האדם ולא אמר חביבין ישראל, וזה כי הפרש גדול יש, אף כי גם מעלה זו היא לישראל בפרט, מ"מ יש צורת אדם באומות ג"כ, רק שעיקר צורת אדם לא נמצא באומות, מ"מ נמצא הצלם הזה אצל שאר אומות, רק שאינו נחשב לכלום ולכך לא אמר חביבין ישראל שנבראו בצלם אלהים. ועוד כי כאשר נברא האדם היה מעלה זאת לאדם ולנח אף כי אינם בשם ישראל נקראים ואם אחר שבחר השי"ת בישראל נתמעט הצלם הזה אצל האומות, מ"מ הצלם האלהי הוא שייך לאדם במה שהוא אדם ודבר זה מבואר:

The Tosfos Yom Tov – who was perhaps the most important student of the Maharal says the same thing – but specifically rejects the understand that RaP is reading into the Maharal in Tiferes Yisroel:

תוי"ט (אבות ג:יד): חביב אדם שנברא בצלם חבה יתירה וכו' שנאמר בצלם אלהים עשה אתהאדם - פירש"י חביב אדם שנברא בצלם. לכן מוטל עליו לעשות רצון קונו. ע"כ. ובכל אדם אמר ר"ע. וכמו שהוא הראיה שממנו הביא שהוא נאמר לבני נח לא לבני ישראל לבדם ורצה ר"ע לזכות את כל אדם אף לבני נח. ומאמר מלא אמר הרמב"ם בפ"ח מהלכות מלכים [הלכה י']. וז"ל צוה משה רבינו ע"ה מפי הגבורה לכוף את כל באי העולם לקבל מצות שנצטוו בני נח. וכל מי שלא יקבל יהרג והמקבל אותם הוא הנקרא גר תושב בכ"מ וכו' כל המקבל שבע מצות ונזהר לעשותן. הרי זה מחסידי אומות העולם ויש לו חלק לעוה"ב. והוא שיקבל אותן ויעשה אותן. מפני שצוה בהן הקב"ה בתורה. והודיענו ע"י מרע"ה שבני נח מקודם נצטוו בהן. אבל אם עשאן מפני הכרע הדעת אין זה גר תושב ואינו מחסידי אומות העולם. ולא [צ"ל אלא] מחכמיהם. עכ"ל. ומעתה אני תמה למה זה רחקה הדרך מן המפרשים ולא רצו ללכת בה לפרש דברי ר"ע שאמר מאמרו כלפי כל אדם כי אם לישראל בלבד. ונסמכו במאמרם ז"ל אתם קרויים אדם וכו' והרי זה דרש על דרש. ובזה נכנסו בדוחק ענין הצלם. ובפי' הכתוב שהביא לראיה. אבל בעיני זו הדרך דרך סלולה ומרווחת כי בא ר"ע להיישיר לכל באי עולם כאשר נצטוינו מפי מרע"ה כדברי הרמב"ם. ואם בכפיית חרב הרג ואבדן נצטוינו כ"ש בכפיית דברים. להמשיך לבם אל רצון קונם וחפץ צורם. יזכרם לטובה. ושהם חביבים שנבראו בצלם להורות נתן בלבם. כי זאת תורת האדם לעשות חוקי אלהים ומשפטיו מצד אשר הוא צוה כדברי הרמב"ם דהואיל שחבבו לבראו בצלמו. לכן מוטל עליו לעשות רצון קונו כפירש"י. והשתא אתי שפיר דנקט להך קרא. אע"פ שיש כמה מקראות הקודמים אליו שנאמר נעשה אדם בצלמנו. אבל זה המקרא הוא שנאמר גבי המצות שנצטוו בהם. לכך הביא לזה הכתוב שכן אמרו הש"י בטעם המצוה אשר צוה אותם כי בצלם אלהים עשה את האדם ולבני נח נאמר הכתוב. ולבני נח אמר ר"ע דבריו הללו. ואתי נמי שפיר שאמר שנברא בצלם. וחסר הנסמך שהוא אלהים הנאמר בכתוב. ואילו גבי בנים אמר שנקראו בנים למקום. והיינו טעמא שזו ג"כ מדברי התוכחה להוכיחם ולומר שהם נבראו בצלם ובאיזה צלם נבראו בצלם אלהים כאומר שהבריאה היתה בצלם אלהים אבל הואיל ואינם מקיימים מצותיו ואע"פ שאם מקיימים אינם מקיימים מפני אשר צוה אותם אלהים. הנה הם חסרים מתואר צלם אלהים. ועוד מענין צלם בעצמו שהוא כפירוש הרמב"ם בתחלת ספר המורה שהוא ההשגה השכלית אשר בו יתייחד האדם. ונתעצם באמתת מה שהוא והנה תכלית ההשגה השכלית הזאת הוא ידיעת אלהים כפי האפשר בכח האדם והשגתו. ולפיכך נתחכם החכם השלם הזה שלא אמר אצלם בצלם אלהים לפי שהם חסרים באמת מידיעת אלהים והכתוב שאומר בצלם אלהים עשה לומר שכן נבראו כלומר שהיא היתה כונת הבריאה באדם שיהא לו השגה שכלית מגעת לידיעת אלהים. אבל לפי שבאמת לא ידעו ולא יבינו ובחשיכה יתהלכו ולא יצאה הכונה אל הפועל מן הראוי שיאמר שנבראו בצלם. ולא בצלם אלהים אחרי שהכונה שהיא השגת אלהים לא נשלמה. ואין בהם אלא הכנה בלבד. ואותה ראוי להקרא צלם בלתי הנסמך שהוא אלהים. זה נראה לי בפי' מאמר ר"ע. ולפי זה מדוקדק יפה המשנה שאחר זו הכל צפוי וכו' כמו שאבאר שם בס"ד. ועוד שגם בזה יש ג"כ חבה יתירה נודעת בישראל שאע"פ שכבר חבבם כמו לכל אדם בצלם אלהים אשר עשהו בו. אעפ"כ לא זז מחבבן עוד ביתר שאת ויתר עז שנקראו בנים למקום. וזה שאת ומעלה יתירה. ובכלי חמדה היא התורה אשר נתן להם. וזהו עוז. כענין שנאמר (תהלים כ"ט) ה' עוז לעמו יתן. [שדרשוהו ז"ל בפרק פרת חטאת [בזבחים דף קט"ז] על התורה]:

Friday, November 28, 2008

Profile of Rabbi & Mrs. Holtzberg

NYTimes: Prof. Isaac Balbin shares his personal memories - must read

In 2003, barely out of their teens and newly married, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, moved from Brooklyn to the coastal city of Mumbai, India, to manage a mix of educational center, synagogue and social hall known as a Chabad house, one of about 3,500 outposts around the world run by the Lubavitch Hasidic movement.

The place soon became a year-round magnet for Israeli backpackers and the Jewish businessmen and tourists who flock to Mumbai, as well as for the Iraqi and Indian Jews who live there. Mrs. Holtzberg served visitors coffee and homemade kosher delicacies. Rabbi Holtzberg always offered a helping hand to someone who was sick or stranded, often calling worried parents or spouses miles and miles away to calm them.

On Wednesday, the Holtzbergs’ Chabad house became an unlikely target of the terrorist gunmen who unleashed a series of bloody coordinated attacks at locations in and around Mumbai’s commercial center.

Firing grenades and automatic weapons, the men also took the Holtzbergs and at least six other people hostage in the Chabad house, according to friends of the Holtzbergs. The couple’s 2-year-old son, Moshe, and a cook managed to escape about 12 hours into the siege, the friends said. The boy’s pants were soaked in blood when he emerged. By late Thursday afternoon in New York, there was still no news of his parents’ fate.[...]

Tax authority to pay informers percentage

Haaretz reports:

The Israel Tax Authority is looking for ways to increase its collections in these tough times, so it is using tried and true methods: It will now pay informers 20% of any fines collected when they
rat on tax evaders.

"It is impossible to estimate tax evasion in Israel. I believe the lower the tax rates, the lower the amount of tax evasion," said ITA head Yehuda Nasradishi on Thursday.

He added that he sees no difference between someone who robs a bank or store and one who cheats on his taxes.

Nasradishi said the authority receives large amounts of information from the public through its Internet site, and will double the percentage of the fines paid to informers after they are handed down by the courts. Informers will also collect the money if the suspect reaches a compromise with the taxman on unpaid taxes.

He said the recent Supreme Court decision ordering the ITA to reveal the names tax evaders who reached an agreement with the authority over unpaid taxes, wold lead to more indictments being filed as fewer people will want to reach a compromise now. Of course, Nasradishi does not use the term informer. He refers to them as good citizens.

20% Israeli prisoners for domestic violence

Haaretz reports:

One-fifth of Israel's civilian prisoners were arrested on charges of domestic violence, a Knesset think tank found after examining data from the Prison Service. About 400 prisoners behind bars for domestic violence had been jailed five or more previous times, although not all previous convictions were for domestic violence, according to the Knesset's Research and Information Center.

In early November, over 1,800 prisoners were serving domestic-violence sentences, including 116 convicted of incest. Half of the domestic-violence sentences were between one and five years, though 129 prisoners are serving life sentences for these offenses.

More than 60 percent of domestic-violence detainees have been convicted and jailed for previous domestic-violence offenses. More than 90 percent of domestic-violence prisoners released in 2008 had not qualified for parole.

There were almost 900 sex offenders in Israeli prisons in early November, a little over 10 percent of the prison population.

In the first 10 months of this year, 10 women were murdered by their domestic partners, according to police figures included in the document. This may turn out to be a slight drop from 2007, in which 13 women were killed by partners over the entire year, while one woman was killed in a "family honor" incident. The 614 rape complaints in the first 10 months of the year also constitute a slight drop from the 640 complaints in the same period last year.

The police open nearly 15,000 domestic-violence cases every year, most of which are closed for lack of evidence or lack of public interest. The number of partner-violence cases that reach the court system is dropping steadily from 3,000 in 2004 to just 1,850 last year. [...]

Thursday, November 27, 2008

History - What is a week?


By journalist/translator/illustrator

R' Avraham Broide,

At first glance, the "week" seems the odd-man-out of our calendar.

Because unlike the year that is measured by earth's yearly spin round the sun, or the month that is measured by the moon's journey round earth, the week seems disconnected from astronomical phenomenom. Its significance stems from Hashem creating the world in six days and resting on the seventh.

Is this why Shabbos is more sacred than other other day of the Jewish year?


Digging a little deeper, however, one soon discovers that the week has a celestial connection after all. This is evident from a couple of Gemaras where Rashi points out a clear correlation between the heavenly bodies and the seven days of the week.

For thousands of years, stargazers, astrologers, and astronomers noticed that almost the stars of the heavens are nailed in place against the backdrop of outer space. They march in unison across the heavens, never daring to make a misstep.

But gaze into space for consecutive nights and you might notice five rogue stars that disobey the rules, inching slowly between the stars. Some of them even backtrack during the process. The ancients named these stars planets, ancient Greek for "wanderers." The rabbis called them kochvei leches, wandering stars.

In fact, they are not stars at all, but planets circling their way around the sun as we do.

Add the sun and moon to these five planets and you get seven heavenly bodies. Chazal and the ancients arranged them in this order:

1. Shabtai (Saturn). 2. Zedek (Jupiter). 3. Maadim (Mars). 4. Chammah (the sun). 5. Kochav Nogah (Venus, the shining star). 6. Kochav (Mercury). 7. Levanah (the moon).

The Gemara (Berachos 59b) states that G-d created the heavenly bodies at the beginning of Wednesday night during the hour of Shabtai (Saturn). Rashi explains:

At this moment, when G-d placed the sun, moon and stars in the firmament, the seven heavenly bodies began their rule. And forever after they rule in the following order:
Saturn rules during the 1st hour, Jupiter the 2nd second, etc. Once the seven planets have run their course, the cycle starts again. Shabtai takes the 8th hour, Zedek the 9th, and so on.

It takes exactly a week for the cycle to work through all its permutations. After one week, Shabtai returns to the first hour of the day on Wednesday evening and the cycle repeats itself exactly like the week before.

Yet another Gemara connects the weekdays to the seven heavenly bodies.

The Gemara (Shabbos 129b) warns people never to perform bloodletting on Tuesdays, because on Tuesdays, Mars rules during an "even" hour. What does that mean?

Rashi explains:

If you calculate which heavenly body rules during the first hour of each weekday, the order is as follows:

Sunday - the sun. Monday - the moon. Tuesday - Mars. Wednesday - Mercury. Thursday - Jupiter. Friday - Venus. Shabbos (Saturday) - Saturn. (Do you see a pattern?)

Since Mars, symbol of the sword, pestilence and tribulation, falls during the first hour of Tuesday, seven hours later it will automatically fall during the eighth hour of the day. Eighth is an even number. Since even numbers are dangerous (as explained in the Gemara Pesachim 110b), one must avoid bloodletting the whole of Tuesday in order to avoid this planet-promoted hazard.

We see from all this that the names Sunday, Monday, and Saturday are no coincidence. They are named after the heavenly bodies that have ascendancy during their first daylight hour!

In fact, the Babylonians named every day of the week after gods associated with these "first hour" heavenly bodies, as follows:

Shamash (Sunday), Sin (the moon, Monday), Nergal (Mars, Tuesday), Nebo (Mercury, Wednesday), Marduk (Jupiter, Thursday), Ishtar (Venus, Friday), Ninurta (Saturn, Saturday).


If so, you might ask, how can Jews mention weekday names that are based on idolatry? Does the Torah not command (Shemos 23:13), "The names of other gods you shall not mention, they shall not be heard on your mouth?"

Discussing whether one is permitted to mention the names of coins named after idols, the Responsa Chavos Yair (chapter 1) mentions a few mitigating factors, including the permissibility of mentioning names of idols that are obsolete and no longer worshipped.

However, the Tzitz Eliezer (volume 8, chapters 8 and 14) objects to non-Jewish month-names due to their idolatrous connotations, and suggests writing 01, 02, etc., instead of their names. How he would get around the problem of saying weekday-names is unclear.

How did our modern weekdays develop? Some of them were altered by the Greeks and Romans when they substituted some of the Babylonian gods with their own, and later still the Teutons and Anglo Saxons threw out the Roman gods and substituted them with their own idols. As a result, the modern names of Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, are named after obsolete Teuton and Anglo Saxon gods.

Wednesday, for example, started as Nabu in Babylon, became Mercurius in Rome, and ended up as Woden in Britain. Woden transmuted into modern day Wednesday.

Abuse by computer - Verdict in MySpace Suicide

NYTimes reports:

LOS ANGELES — A federal jury here issued what legal experts said was the country’s first cyberbullying verdict Wednesday, convicting a Missouri woman of three misdemeanor charges of computer fraud for her involvement in creating a phony account on MySpace to trick a teenager, who later committed suicide. [...]

Hostages seized in India - say Tehilim

YNet reported:
New York Times

Israelis held hostage in Mumbai

Terrorists seize Chabad offices in Indian city, hold emissary's family hostage. Rabbi's son, nanny seen leaving place safely; gunshots heard from inside. Indian commando says one gunman killed, but four armed men remain in building. At least 10 sites attacked overnight; 101 people killed, 287 injured police reported that terrorists took over the Chabad offices at around 4:30 am Thursday and appear to be holding the family of the organization's emissary, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, hostage. Gunshots have been heard from inside the building.

A woman and a child were reportedly seen leaving the building safely on Thursday morning. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yossi Levy confirmed that the rabbi's two-year-old son and his nanny were released. The;condition of the Chabad emissary and his wife Rivka is unclear. Indian commando Amit Tiwari told Reuters that one of the gunmen hadbeen killed, but at least four armed men remained in the building.

"It is not clear what the gunmen want," Tiwari said. Rivka Holtzberg's mother, Yehudit Rosenberg, told Ynet, "I'm praying for them. I heard the nanny was questioned, and that they're alive but unconscious."[...]

Divorce & custody - Tender Years Clause

Arutz Sheva reports: An academic conference on a proposed change in Israeli divorce law – the annulment of the Tender Years Clause which grants automatic physical custody over young children to their mothers in divorce cases – turned into a emotional and stormy session as academicians, divorced fathers, social workers, feminist and non-feminist speakers argued in heated tones.

The conference, which was held in the Netanya Academic College, was chaired by Dr. Yisrael Tzvi Gilat, and the panel included Prof. Dan Shnitt. Shnitt is currently chairing a committee which was appointed by Tzipi Livni when she was Minister of Justice, and which is expected to recommend legislating an alternative to the Tender Years Clause.

The Welfare Ministry's Deputy Director, Moti Vinter, told the assembled audience that the ministry favors the annulment of the Tenders Years Clause. "We think that the family institution is changing, society in Israel is changing, men are becoming more involved in the institution of family," he said. "I think that the decision by Welfare Minister Yitzchak Herzog to enable the possibility of adoption by homosexuals and lesbians definitely proves… the willingness to adjust to far reaching change in Israeli society," he explained.

Vinter said, however, that the fact that Israel has s rabbinical court system makes it different from other western countries and suggested that annulling the Tender Years Clause immediately would not be a good idea after all. He recommended testing the idea in an experimental fashion before reaching a decision to strike the clause permanently from the law books.

Vinter and the other speakers had trouble finishing their speeches, however, because men's activists who sat in the front rows kept on interrupting them. The activists said, among other things, that the Shnitt Committee was illegitimate because it included feminist representatives, including a representative from Israel's largest women's union, Na'amat – yet has no representatives from the men's groups.

Senior Social Worker Niva Milner, who was also interrupted numerous times, said that the Welfare Ministry has changed its attitude on the subject of custody but explained that the change is mostly one of "discourse." The old discourse concerned parental rights, she said, and the new one involves parental responsibilities.

Prof. Yossi Gil, a member of a parents' group called "Horut Shava," said that the Tender Years Clause perpetuated the stereotypes of "mother as nanny and father as cash machine" and that both sexes should be interested in annulling it for the sake of equality. He noted that some people receive money in order to perpetuate the feud between men and women and singled out a feminist group that publicly supported a woman who sadistically murdered her husband.

Dr. Orly Binyamin of the Sociology and Gender Studies programs in Bar Ilan University caused a firestorm to erupt when she explained the reason for her opposition to striking the Tender Years Clause. "My opposition has nothing to do with my assessment regarding the skills of men as fathers or of women as mothers," she said. "The central point is that when the Tender Years Clause is annulled, women will lose their legal status as single mothers and therefore will not be eligible for [state] support."

The Tender Years Clause is based upon a principle spelled out by Maimonides, according to which children up to the age of six should be with their mothers in case of divorce. However, additional clauses from Maimonides which stipulate that the father has the right to raise his sons after they turn six are ignored by modern Israeli courts, and the Tender Years Clause has been extended and now applies to children of all ages. [...]

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Messianic Jews & Birthright screening

Trip organizers for Birthright have begun screening American candidates interested in free trips to Israel to prevent Messianic Jews from participating.

A questionnaire of a Birthright (Taglit) trip organizer that was obtained by The Jerusalem Post includes a question regarding applicants' religious faith.

Under a category entitled "eligibility rules," applicants are asked to declare that they are Jewish.

They are also asked to declare that "I do not subscribe to any beliefs or follow any practices which may be in any way associated with Messianic Judaism, Jews for Jesus or Hebrew Christians."

The questionnaire stipulates that if the applicant lies about any of the questions that confirm eligibility he or she will be immediately dismissed from the program and will lose a $250 deposit. In addition, he or she might be obligated to pay the full cost of the trip - valued at $2,500 to $3,000 - paid by Birthright.

Messianic Jews are often Jewish by lineage and/or identify themselves with the Jewish people, but believe that Jesus is the messiah. Most celebrate the Jewish holidays and study Jewish texts in addition to the New Testament.

Attorney Calev Myers, founder and chief counsel of the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, a nonprofit organization that provides legal counsel to Messianic Jews in Israel, called the screening practice "blatant, ridiculous discrimination" and "a shame."

"Instead of drawing children of Messianic Jewish families closer to their Jewish roots, they are excluding them from participating," he said. [...]

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Conversion - Bnei Menashe & Christianity

Until 100 years ago the Bnei Menashe, like other peoples here in the Northeast of India, were animists - they believed that nature and animals had spiritual qualities. They practiced their own ancient religions and had their own time-honored customs, including ritual sacrifice.

At the end of the 19th century, Christian missionaries got to them, and with these missionaries came evangelical fervor. According to the story here, in the 1950s two men from the Kuki clan each had separate visions telling them that they were the lost Israelite tribe of Menashe and must return home to Israel. When they awoke from their sleep, they started spreading their vision amongst the Kuki. Slowly people started calling themselves Bnei Menashe, and the practice of Judaism started competing with Christianity.

Speaking to the Bnei Menashe here in Kangpopki, I am told something that I didn't fully grasp before, but which is quite startling: All of the Kuki in Northeast India - as well as elements of the tribe in neighboring Myanmar, totaling some three million people - are considered, by the two men who had the visions and by the current leadership, to be Bnei Menashe.

So even though only a tiny minority of the Kuki tribe have embraced Judaism and want to make aliya, they are all potential Jewish converts and Israeli citizens. All three million of them.

The vast majority of the Kuki throughout this region were converted to Christianity beginning in the first decades of the 19th century. There are currently some 7,200 who practice Judaism (according to the Shavei Israel organization, which assists "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people), or 30,000 (according to the chairman of the Kuki Cultural Welfare Committee in Kohima). The souvenir booklet commemorating 25 years of Judaism in Northeast India puts the number of practicing Jews at 2,300. It was published in 2001. Seven years later, with 1,500 from the community having since moved to Israel, even the lowest estimate is more than three times that high.

Whatever the true figure, it is peanuts compared to the potential number of converts. This is not to say that there is a secret plan to convert them all, or that Shavei Israel, Amishav (a Jerusalem-based organization that works to find descendants of the 10 Lost Tribes and reconnect them with the Jewish people) or anybody else is actively working to make inroads into this community for potential conversion. Remember, Judaism is a religion that forbids proselytizing.

In general, the Kuki are staunchly Christian. They love Israel because they have been told that Israel was the birthplace of Christianity. But as the practice of Judaism spreads amongst the Bnei Menashe Kuki, they themselves are drawing others into the fold. They say that they go from village to village spreading their message, following the good evangelical traditions in which their parents and grandparents were schooled by the missionaries.

This evangelical spirit also explains other aspects of the Bnei Menashe mind-set. When you ask them about who they are and where they're going, they answer largely in slogans and programmed responses. Question: Why do you want to move to Israel? Answer: It is the land of my forefathers and I want to pray three times a day; I want to be able to practice Judaism in the land of Jacob and Isaac...[...]

Prison Rehabilitation - Greater Success

JPost reports:

When Avraham Hoffman founded the Prison Rehabilitation Authority in 1984, 90 percent of prisoners in Israel found themselves back behind bars within a year of being released.

By the time he resigned as director-general of the authority in 2002, less than 60% of offenders were being sent back to jail, placing Israel well below the international average of 70-75%.

For this remarkable feat, and the groundbreaking methods he pioneered to give prisoners a ray of hope, Hoffman was awarded a prize by the International Corrections and Prisons Association last month in Prague - the same city he passed through when he was a month old and he and his mother were escaping the Nazis.

"Receiving the prize in Prague was very meaningful for me," Hoffman said last week. He recently returned from a lecture tour that took him around Europe to share his innovative ideas on rehabilitation.

The Prison Rehabilitation Authority was founded around the idea that "every person has the right to a new start," he explained, describing how a Knesset law provided government backing for the authority.

"Before the PRA existed, repeat offenders would stand before judges, and the judges asked of them, 'What should I do with you? This is your third time here.'

"The offender would reply, 'Your honor, what would you do in my position? I have no job, no basis in society.' The PRA was founded to remove this excuse," Hoffman said.

Moreover, until the authority was founded, the wives of prisoners were left helpless while their men did time. Only the underworld would offer to support the women financially, Hoffman said.

When the prisoners got out, their "buddies" would throw a party, welcome them back, and then demand a "payback" for looking after their families.

"The underworld figures did not want money from their newly released friends, but for them to get back into committing crimes. We came along to break the cycle of crime, by looking after the wives and children of the prisoners ourselves.

"When the prisoner gets out now, he doesn't owe anyone a thing," Hoffman said. Unlike other prison programs, the onus is on the prisoner to apply to join the Rehabilitation Authority. If approved by a prisons committee, the offender and the authority draw up a contract, under which the prisoner is released after serving two-thirds of his sentence.

The newly released offenders are then placed in urban hostels, kibbutzim and other places with the consent and support of the surrounding community.

"We need society's support, otherwise there is no rehabilitation," said Hoffman. The offender is then trained for a variety of jobs, and is obligated to show up for work. If the offender breaches the contract, he is sent back to jail.

"They are being taught to live. They don't know how to live simple lives, after being thrown out of schools and their homes at a young age. They have nothing to hold on to, so naturally they drifted towards crime," he said.

The feeling of "never being alone" is critical to the authority's success, he added."Being accessible 24 hours a day is everything in rehabilitation. All employees must commit to being available around the clock. What good are set office hours when a prisoner is threatening to jump off a high spot and needs to speak to you?" Hoffman asked. "We respect the prisoners, and we give them hope. Those who make it for two years without a relapse into drugs or crime become counselors for newly released prisoners. This is to prove that rehabilitation is possible," he said.[...]

R' Slifkin - context of ban /RaP

This was taken from one of RaP's comment to his analysis regarding Rabbi Tropper

SD said... I was trying to understand the relevance of Columbia's having awarded a PHd to Rebbetzin David for her dissertation on Rav Chayes.

RaP: Rabbi Eidensohn is always asking for "sources" and every now and again I like to inveigh with a jolly good one at that. The relevance in this case was to point out Rabbi Tropper's role in the ban of Rabbi Slifkin's books that ultimately it was a joint rabbinic effort by many Haredi rabbis, not just Rabbi Tropper, to have Rabbi Slifkin's revisionistic (in the sense that he introduced a "non-ArtScroll" gedolim-approved genre) writings about Judaism and science, essentially part of a larger historical struggle between how to reconcile IMPLICATIONS from Science/Biology with classical Judaism.

This is most definitely part of a longer term struggle that goes back to the days of Hellenism vs Judaism, then into the days of the Early Renaissance and the struggle between the Chachmei Sefarad and the Chachmei Tzarfas/Ashkenaz with the latter fighting the RAMBAM's views on Greek Philosophy, then the struggle of the major Renaissance where secular science began to flourish and spawned the Enlightenment and the Haskala. The fight against Rabbi Slifkin is in many ways a continuum and flare-up of the ongoing struggle between those willing to accept scientific theories and views from non-Jewish sources and those who do not. Rabbi Chiyes in his day inter-acted with maskilim and incorporated their views into his hashkofa and for that Rebbetzin David took him to task (read her work, it is thorough and makes lots of good arguments), just as Rabbi Slifkin was taken to task for incorporating non-traditional views, albeit with rationalizations and proofs from various sources that he garnered, just as Rabbi Chiyes did, and just as Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik ztk"l did in creating "Torah Umada", but this is getting to be too broad a discussion. [...]

RaP: [...] In fact few people know of this thesis but it has been online for a while now. And please assume good faith, as they say on Wikipedia, this is not about "exposing" this or that. It is much more than that, a large historical debate between different schools of thought and with many intellectual and human battles and skirmishes along the way. Rabbi Slifkin knew the risks he was taking by being an iconoclast and writing in a way about nature and animals that had not been done before in the English speaking Torah world and he was challenged and the Haredim decided to ban his books. This is not unusual. It has been happening with more frequency as many worlds converge and collide in our days. Rabbi Tropper knows about the school of hard knocks too, he helped to get Rabbi Slifkin banned and in turn he was banned by the BADATZ for his own more "enlightened" view about conversions that there should be mass proselytisation to non-Jewish spouses of intermarried Jews all in the name of "higher conversion standards" and by jumping down the throats of Batei Din he liked or didn't like.

All men are equal? - RaP vs. R' Micha Berger

Recipients and Publicity wrote
: concerning "R' Tropper - Kiruv vs Geirus/ RaP's analysis":

RaP had written in the above post: "But what to do when confronted with interfaith couples where the Jewish one needs kiruv and the non-Jew needs conversion? This is not an easy quandary for all concerned but at rock bottom, regardless of what the interfaith couples are told or imagine, the gentile is NOT a "tinok shenishba" and has NO neshama while the Jew has a 100% holy neshama, which the converting gentile presumably desires. While male Jew can count for a minyan as would the greatest gadol on Earth, as would a 100% Halachically Jewish mother (even if she was anti-religious) give birth to a 100% Jew, on the other hand a goy MUST be excluded from a minyan. These are facts life and Jewish Law."
R' MB: Didn't HQBH make a point of having us all come from Adam so that things like this would not be said?
RaP:What micha said is really very surprising:

RaP: Yes indeed that is the classical answer and it is true, but why do you ignore the fact that Judaism holds that a non-Jew does not have THAT neshama that a Jew does have and indeed it is exactly THAT neshama that the sincere potential convert wants to have and should/does get upon immersion in the Bais Din's mikva when THAT neshama that he did NOT have enters into him/her upon immersion in the mikva of geirus. That is all I was saying and there was no need of you to move the issue into illogical non-relevant humanistic and globalistic egalitarian drive, when you could have just let the obvious Halachic reality stand without unnecessary questioning by you.

R' MB: One may argue whether the difference is qualitative or quantitative. Or whether it's inherent, or a product of our being part of a mission (whether a willing part or not).
RaP: These are just nice words that have nothing to do with anything, I am afraid. Why are you panicking and why do have so much trouble when THE key difference between a Yid a Goy is pointed out? I.E.: That a Yid has a Holy Neshama and Goy does not. That is why a Yid is a Yid and Goy is Goy. What don't I get here?

R' MB: But to deny that every human being has a tzelem E-lokim... The Tanya says such things, but I can't think of anyone else who does.
RaP: The "tzelem E-lokim" was not mentioned here nor was it discussed. And as you know, the use of the phrase and notion of "tzelem E-lokim" requires definition and context depending how it is to be used, but one this is for sure, the idea that somehow gentiles may have a degree of the the sublime "tzelem E-lokim" does NOT mean that they automatically can be assumed to have a neshama as well upon their desire to convert to Judaism. Far from it. Regardless of the sublime and noble Godly origin and roots of all mankind, to use the analogy of the Jewish sages, a gentile is in essence like "water" and only upon proper Halachic conversion does that gentile become "wine" when he/she finally immerses in the mikva as if it was a literal miracle of birth. Call it the ultimate BORN AGAIN phenomenon (of course the Christians stole this idea like almost all their best ideas from Judaism.)

So, sure, according to the Pantheistic and Panentheistic (Panentheism posits that God exists and interpenetrates every part of nature, and timelessly extends beyond as well. Panentheism is distinguished from pantheism, which holds that God is synonymous with the material universe) views of Tanya, which posits sparks of G-d in everything, but even Tanya teaches that while while animals have the nefesh habahamis and humans have nefesh, it is ONLY Jews who have a higher complete neshama, the "neshama Elokis sichlis" as the MAHARAL of Prague labels it most definitively, and it is precisely THAT "neshama Elokis sichlis" that a true ger tzedek receives upon the completion of a successful geirus and more specifically upon immersion in the mikva which for the ger is considered THE literal moment of BIRTH as a Jew when the "neshama Elokis sichlis" enters into hi/her just as it does when a Jewish baby is born to a 100% Halachicaly Jewish mother. And hence the expression of the Chazal: "Ger shenisgayer ketinok/kekatan shenolad dami" ("[a] convert who converts [is exactly similar to] like [a] newborn [JEWISH] infant/child") (Yevamot 48b).

Neo-Nazis Russian Immigrants II /Time

The last thing you would expect to find in the Jewish state would be homegrown neo-Nazis, but an Israeli court on Sunday jailed eight teenagers for beating up ultra-Orthodox Jews, gays and the elderly, while shouting, "Heil Hitler!"

The same gang of skinheads had painted swastikas and naked women on the doors of a Haifa synagogue. They had also attacked a drug addict in Tel Aviv and forced him to grovel and beg for forgiveness for being a Jew. They videotaped the spectacle and posted it on their website, spliced with clips of Adolf Hitler. And they weren't particularly secretive about their identities, having strutted around the beaches of Tel Aviv showing off their Nazi tattoos. And yet all of these neo-Nazis are Israelis — one of them is a Jewish teenager whose grandparents survived the Holocaust.

Tel Aviv District Judge Zvi Gurfinkel called their crimes "shocking and horrifying" and sentenced the youths, ages 16 to 19, to between one and seven years in prison. The judge conceded that the sentences were severe, but his objective, he said, was to discourage other young Israelis from joining neo-Nazi gangs.

Most Israelis reacted to the presence of neo-Nazis in their midst with a combination of surprise and revulsion, imagining that a country that rose from the ashes of Nazi death camps would be immune to the sort of anti-Semitic thuggery occasionally still seen in Europe and Russia. Israel, after all, has always offered itself as a sanctuary from anti-Semitism. (See pictures of 60 years of Israel.)

Israel's neo-Nazis seem to be rebellious misfits. They are the sons of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who came to Israel under its Law of Return, which grants citizenship to anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent. (The Nazis used the same yardstick to decide who was Jewish enough to be dispatched to the concentration camps.) (See pictures of Kristallnacht.)

More than 1 million former Soviet citizens flooded into Israel in the 1990s, taking advantage of the Law of Return to escape the calamitous economic collapse that accompanied the demise of the Soviet Union. According to sociologists, nearly one-third of those immigrants have no deep sense of Jewish culture or identity. "The young Russian immigrants feel lost here," says Sergei Makarov, historian of Israel's Russian community. "They come from poor families who expected to be appreciated as loyal Jews when they arrived here," he says, adding, "Instead, they found themselves with no jobs and no recognition from the Israelis. They became bitter and frustrated. The neo-Nazi agenda fits them very well."[...]

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Strange Side of History" website / R' A. Broide

I have posted a number of articles by R' Avraham Broide in the last two weeks. For those who are interested in more, he now has his own website based on his long running column in Yated Neeman (USA), "The Strange Side of History." In conjunction with the site, a weekly e.mail will contain an abbreviated strange event from Jewish history. Additional features are being added to the webstie at present.

Slaps not abuse say 70% of Israeli Arab women -

Haaretz reports:

Some 70 percent of Arab women in Israel believe women who are pushed, slapped or struck by their male partners are not victims of domestic violence, according to a poll conducted by the Na'amat women's organization.

The organization conducted the survey to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Some 73 percent believe women whose partners curse or humiliate them are not victims of violence. [...]

Blog appearance - Maximized for firefox

After a bit of investigation it seems that Blogger is maximized for Firefox and is not fully compatible with either Explorer or Chrome.

In Firefox I can increase the entire page with the fonts. With the other two - the size of the blog page is fixed and only the fonts can be enlarged or reduced. There are also certain formatting commands that are invisible in Firefox but are displayed in the other two.

If anyone has any way of getting around this problem I would appreciate  the information. In the mean time I will stick with the present template. Consequently the best way to view this blog is to use Firefox.

History - Inquisition & Dr. Nunez

Jewish History No One Knows (But Should Know)
From articles written for the Yated Neeman (USA)

by Avraham Broide
(Jerusalem based translator and journalist.
phone: 02-5856133; email:

What happens when you cannot flee your jailors? Take them along with you!

Dr. Nunez was in a crisis. Would he ever escape the eagle eye of his guards?

Dr. Samuel Nunez of Lisbon, Portugal, was born to a Marrano family that was still passing along the torch of Judaism two centuries after Spain expelled all its practicing Jews in 1492. Nunez lived a double life. Publicly, he was a distinguished doctor serving high dignitaries of the Catholic Church; privately, he and his family were committing religious crimes that could earn them death at the stake.

All went well until the spring of 5486/1726 when Inquisition spies caught him, his wife Rebecca, and his three children red-handed in the middle of a Passover Seder. For most Marranos, the crime of "seeking the L-rd according to their prohibited faith" would have signified torture and death. Fortunately, Dr. Nunez was the private physician and close friend of the Grand Inquisitor who was suffering from an enlarged prostrate gland and reluctant to lose the good doctor's services.

An agreement was struck. The doctor was spared on condition that two Inquisition officials reside at his home day and night, keeping a sharp eye on his activities. Now, severed from his spiritual roots, the doctor felt that life in Portugal was unbearable and plotted a brilliant escape.

Years later, a descendant of one of the Marranos who fled with the doctor recorded how he fooled his jailors:

"The doctor had a large and elegant mansion on the banks of the Tagus and being a man of large fortune he was in the habit of entertaining the principal families of Lisbon. On a pleasant summer day, he invited a party to dinner, and among the guests was a captain of an English brigantine anchored at some distance in the river. While the company were amusing themselves on the lawn, the captain invited the family and part of the company to accompany him on board the brigantine and partake of a lunch prepared for the occasion.

"All the family, together with the spies of the Inquisition and a portion of the guests repaired on board the vessel, and while they were below in the cabin enjoying the hospitality of the captain, the anchor was weighed, the sails unfurled, and the weather being fair, the brigantine shot out of the Tagus, was soon at sea, and carried the whole party to England.

"It had been previously arranged between the doctor and the captain, who had agreed for a thousand moidores in gold to convey the family to England, and who were in the painful necessity of adopting this plan of escape to avoid detection. The ladies had secreted all their diamonds and jewels, which were quilted in their dresses, and the doctor having previously changed all his securities into gold, it was distributed among the gentlemen of the family and carried around them in leathern belts. His house, plate, furniture, servants, equipage, and even the dinner cooked for the occasion were all left, and were subsequently seized by the Inquisition and confiscated to the state."

Soon after his arrival in England, the doctor heard that a group of about forty Jews was sailing overseas to the newly founded English colony of Georgia and sailed off with them to become the second Jewish doctor in North America.

Mr. Benjamin Sheftall, one of the Jewish passengers, described the group’s arrival in his journal:

"The names of the Jews who arrived in Savannah, Georgia on the 11th day of July, 1733. Doctor Nunis, Mrs. Nunis his mother, Daniel Nunis, Moses Nunez, Sipra Nunez, Shem Noah their servant …. These Jews were the first of our nation who came to this country [Georgia]. They brought with them a Safer Torah with two cloaks, and a circumcision box, which were given to them by Mr. Lindo, a merchant in London, for the use of the congregation they intended to establish."

Yet, even in the relative freedom of America, it took the doctor's family years to shake off the last vestiges of their Catholicism.

"For years after their arrival in this country," a contemporary record reports, "the female members of the family were unable to repeat their [Jewish] prayers without the assistance of the Catholic rosary, by reason of the habit acquired in Portugal for the purpose of lending the appearance of Catholic form should they be surprised at their devotions."

Dr. Nunez left many descendants, the best known his great-grandson Commodore Uriah Phillips Levy, the first Jew ever appointed Commodore in the US Navy. True to his great-grandfather’s Jewish principles, Levy was instrumental in abolishing the navy’s vicious punishment of flogging men before the mast.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bailout money not being used for loans

SO goes the old saw about bankers: they loan you an umbrella when the sun is shining, only to ask for it back when it rains.

But with our economy and markets in a world of hurt, the nation’s banks were supposed to stow their self-interest and help start lending again.

When the Troubled Asset Relief Program of the Treasury Department handed over $125 billion in taxpayer money to nine banks a month ago, they were supposed to lend to small businesses, home buyers and other worthy borrowers to keep the economy’s gears in motion.

At the time, the Federal Reserve Board and three bank regulatory agencies said: “The agencies expect all banking organizations to fulfill their fundamental role in the economy as intermediaries of credit to businesses, consumers, and other creditworthy borrowers.”

Alas, that admonition wasn’t accompanied by any real requirements to lend. When the Treasury gave taxpayer billions to the banks, it attached no strings. So is it any surprise that lending is tight?

Reports from institutional and individual borrowers across the country indicate this. Nervous lenders are demanding that even healthy loans be paid back. Banks and other financial institutions, meanwhile, are reducing exposures to borrowers and doing whatever they can to discourage the assumption of further debt.

Borrowers I have heard from don’t want to get into trouble with their lenders by speaking publicly about their experiences. As a result, they will remain nameless. But their stories are all the same.

The problem is, unless the government puts serious pressure on the nation’s banks to start lending, the value of assets used as collateral will fall as individuals and institutions everywhere are forced to sell. [...]

Lashon HaRah vs saving others

Riva(Vayikra 19:16): One should not stand idly by concerning the blood of your fellow man. Rashi explains that it means you should not stand idly by and see the death of another person - if you could save him.

Another explanation connects Rashi’s understanding with the first part of this verse, “Don’t spread gossip amongst your people.” Even though you are commanded not to be involved in lashon harah – don’t stand idly by concerning the blood of your brother. In other words if a person told you that he was planning on killing someone – don’t stand idly by but go and inform the intended victim so he can save himself…

ריב"א (ויקרא יט:טז): ולא תעמוד על דם רעך. פרש"י לראות במיתתו ואתה יכול להצילו. י"מ לא תלך רכיל בעמך אע"פ שהזהרתיך על לשון הרע לא תעמוד על דם ריעך שאם אמר לך אדם אחר שיהרגנו אל תעמוד עד שתודיע לו

Neo-Nazis Russian immigrants sentenced

Haaretz reports:

The Tel Aviv District Court on Sunday sentenced eight neo-Nazi gang members exposed last year in Petah Tikva from one to seven years in prison.

The court stated that the phenomenon revealed during the investigation of the case is extremely severe, shocking and horrifying - particularly in light of the fact that the suspects were all youths and immigrants from the Commonwealth of Independent states.

According to the original indictment, filed last September, the eight defendants - mostly immigrants from the former Soviet Union between the ages of 17 and 20 - perpetrated violent hate crimes against Asians, religious Jews, drug addicts and homosexuals.

The indictments included charges of conspiracy to commit a crime, assault, racial incitement and the distribution of racist materials.

The police investigation into the cell began over a year ago, following two incidents of vandalism against Petah Tikva synagogues. Police detectives found neo-Nazi materials on the computers of two suspects.

The video clips found on the computers showed the suspects, along with other people dressed in typical skinhead, neo-Nazi clothes, in the process of assaulting their victims.

These videos led detectives working on the case to suspect that the gang had attacked dozens of people in the Tel Aviv area, mostly foreign workers and drug addicts. In one video, they are seen approaching a foreign worker as he is talking on a public telephone, punching him in the face and breaking a bottle over his head. Violently loud music accompanies each clip, and between segments, the suspects spliced swastikas and other Nazi symbols.

According to the material on their computers, the suspects also planned to celebrate Adolf Hitler's birthday at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum and memorial.

Conversion - Bronfman's views/Garnel Ironheart

His Lordship, Garnel Ironheart guest post:

And this is a story from the fictional JNet.

Wilbur Bronfman, little known half-brother of Edgar Bronfman, today demanded that any person who wants to be a doctor should be allowed into the medical school of his choice and guaranteed an automatic MD.

The strict approach to medical school admissions advocated by universities around the world (with the exception of the Carribean) infuriates Wilbur Bronfman, the man who for nearly three decades led the World Jewish Gefilte Fish Association. Anyone who declares himself a doctor should be accepted to the medical community, he says. Or else the medicine would cease to exist.

With Bronfman at its helm, the WJGFA has fought anti-naturopathy, and extracted funds belonging to legitimate doctors from Swiss banks to help with that. Last year Bronfman was forced to hand over the leadership of the powerful organization to billionaire Pesky Finklestein.

But Bronfman, 99.5, is not ready to retire yet and has found a new platform for his philanthropic energies – Dumbo - the Institute for Easy Medical Training, of which he is now the international chairman.

In a recent interview, Bronfman elaborated on his belief that medicine should be more open and agree to embrace those who wish to become part of it without placing too many obstacles in their way. "I want to change the medical way of thinking," he stated, and pointed out that almost 50% of medical students come from a mixed-marriage family in which one of the parents is not a doctor!

The medical school deans wouldn't agree with you. According to the common sense, only someone who's qualified to attend medical school and completed the requisite training is a doctor.

Bronfman is outraged by this notion. Medicine used to be an open profession, he said, and the medical schools have only sealed the book lately.
'You don't have to know a damn thing about the human body to be a doctor!'

Bronfman's son Shvantzy, explained that Dumbo's objective is to introduce people to medicine through education. "We’ll accept anyone who walks in and says he's a doctor… we'll study anatomy and neuroscience with him… teach him how to take out an inflamed appendix."

Bronfman noted that many non-doctors in the United States who are married to doctors develop an interest in medicine themselves, an interest which Dumbo seeks to encourage. [...]

At-risk girls ignored?

[...] Gershonowitz's and Sander's stories are not the first of their kind. Unfortunately, neither are they the last, as the truth about the growing number of troubled religious girls using drugs and alcohol or suffering from abuse is becoming harder to ignore.

These are the girls who, in some way, do not fit in with the mainstream seminaries that thousands of others attend every year. Even more startling is the fact that these teenagers are actually in Israel "trying to get themselves together," as Rabbi Oded Sher says, but have almost nowhere to go.

"These are girls in crisis, usually from dysfunctional or broken homes, and they are asking for help. They are ready to make changes in their lives and they need guidance," explains Elimelech Lepon, a teacher at one girls' school.

The majority of the girls at these seminaries have always been from the US, but this year in particular there has been an upsurge in the number of American teenagers in Israel. Two renowned schools in New York for at-risk youth closed down over the summer, leaving Israel as one of the only options for these teens.

After Sandler was expelled from the school in Memphis, Tennessee that her mother had sent her to, she entered Monsey Academy for girls in New York (then one of the only institutions for girls at risk in the US). There, she met Oded and Shiri Sher, who later went on to open a school for girls in Israel, Derech Hashem Academy.

"These people devote their entire lives to helping girls at risk, and dedicate their time and energy to doing everything in their power to help us," she said.

As of 2008, there are only three places in Israel (Tzofiah Machon Rivka in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Derech Hashem in Tiberias and Tikva in Jerusalem) that answer the call to help these girls - within a religious framework. But these institutions struggle with dwindling funds, even as the number of at-risk cases escalates.

Contrast this to the dozens of yeshivot that address the problem of at-risk boys - each of which is a recognized institution in its own right, or is affiliated with a reputable program, and therefore has no shortage of funding - seemingly ready to accept every boy who comes off the streets looking for help.

The schools that take care of girls emphasize the mental, emotional and physical well-being and quality of life that the girls can achieve. "The structure is religious, we teach them according to a Torah perspective, but we encourage them to choose their own way of life; whatever will make them happy and healthy," says Shiri Sher from Derech Hashem, which will not reopen in 2009 due to a lack of funds.

Tzofiah, the largest of the three institutions for at-risk girls, was founded in 2000 and is headed by Rabbi Raviv Shaked and his wife, Basy. The school offers religious girls an alternative way to fend for themselves by giving them an "opportunity to re-explore Judaism" while receiving top-quality therapy, obtaining a high school diploma and a certified vocation.

The main challenge these schools face is money. "It costs thousands of dollars a year to run a place like ours," explains Shaked, who says a $30,000 per-girl, per year budget would be ideal in order to give the girls the greatest possible benefit. This figure is due to the fact that unlike other schools and seminaries, Tzofiah not only offers, but requires intensive therapy for each student. Besides the compulsory individual and group therapy, these schools also schedule a multitude of lessons, field trips and activities to keep the pupils supervised while ensuring that they feel free, as well as entertained.

In contrast, the estimated cost for a boy's year at yeshiva comes to about $17,000, mainly because programs for girls are more home-based than those for boys, and these particular teenage girls require a tremendous amount of supervision which also needs to be "fun," leading to increased expenses.

But donors are more hesitant to lend a hand when they hear that their money is going toward a school that deals with "wayward frum girls who shouldn't even be in this position anyway," Lepon says.

The feeling that "we are not getting the best bang for our buck" is prevalent, according to Rabbi Boruch Smith. As former education director of both Tzofiah and Tikva, and current co-principal of Michlelet Esther for girls, Smith continues by describing the increasingly obvious reality that the religious community still finds it "irregular for girls to stray so far from Judaism and family."

When it comes to at-risk male teens, the solutions seem to be much more clear-cut, giving the sense that "we can help with this problem - we follow steps a, b and c, and problem solved," says Sher. With troubled teenage girls, there seem to be a lot more intricacies involved, resulting in only a few people willing to fight this battle; a few singular individuals willing to step into this mire and start pulling the girls out, one by one.[...]

Conversion - Bronfman demands accepting all

YNet reports: [see Garnel Ironheart's in depth analysis]

The strict approach to conversions advocated by the rabbinic institutions in Israel and abroad infuriates Jewish billionaire Edgar Bronfman, the man who for nearly three decades led the World Jewish Congress. Anyone who declares himself Jewish should be accepted to the Jewish people, he says. Or else the Jewish people would cease to exist.

With Bronfman at its helm, the WJC has fought anti-Semitism, helped open the gates of the Soviet Union for aliyah and extracted funds belonging to Holocaust survivors from Swiss banks. Last year Bronfman was forced to hand over the leadership of the powerful organization to billionaire Ron Lauder.

But Bronfman, 78, is not ready to retire yet and has found a new platform for his philanthropic energies – Hillel, The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, of which he is now the international chairman.

In an interview to Yedioth Ahronoth held in Jerusalem this week, Bronfman elaborated on his belief that Judaism should be more open and agree to embrace those who wish to become part of it without placing too many obstacles in their way. "I want to change the Jewish way of thinking," he stated, and pointed out that almost 50% of Jewish students come from a mixed-marriage family in which one of the parents is non-Jewish.

The Orthodox rabbinate wouldn't agree with you. According to the Halacha, only someone whose mother is Jewish, or who converted according to the Halacha is Jewish.

Bronfman is outraged by this notion. Judaism used to be an open religion, he said, and the rabbis have only sealed the book lately.

'You don't have to believe in God to be Jewish'

Bronfman's son Adam, Hillel's vice-chair, explained that Hillel's objective is to introduce people to Judaism through education. "We’ll accept anyone who walks in and says he's Jewish… we'll study Tikkun Olam with him… teach him how to celebrate the Jewish holidays."

Bronfman senior noted that many non-Jews in the United States who are married to Jews develop an interest in Judaism themselves, an interest which Hillel seeks to encourage.[...]