Monday, January 31, 2011

Medical Clown Increases Pregnancy Rates with IVF


A study of 229 Israeli women undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) to treat infertility found that a 15-minute visit from a trained "medical clown" immediately after the embryos were placed in the womb increased the chance of pregnancy to 36%, compared with 20% for women whose embryo transfer was comedy-free.

After controlling for factors such as the women's age, the nature and duration of their infertility, the number of embryos used and the day on which they were transferred into the uterus, researchers found an even greater effect of therapeutic laughter: the women who were entertained by a clown were 2.67 times more likely to get pregnant than those in the control group. (More on 5 Pregnancy Taboos Explained (or Debunked))

The quasi-randomized controlled study was published in one of the leading journals on infertility research, Fertility and Sterility, and led by Israeli researcher Shevach Friedler. It is considered only quasi-randomized because the timing of the recruitment of the control group was slightly different from that of the clown group.

In the trial, the professional medical clown — who was dressed as a chef and performed the same light routine each time — visited patients during the half-hour after embryo transfer, when women typically stay lying down and allow the embryos to settle in. The idea was to help reduce women's stress, which laughter has been shown to do, and, hopefully, reap the physiological benefits. [...]

Punishment after death for pleasure which is not for a mitzva or for the sake of heaven

Gra (Even Shleima 2:12): All the pleasures that a man enjoys in this world will become bitter in the grave. The lusting flesh will be punished in the travails of the grave. There in the grave, judgment will be exacted from every limb of his body which enjoyed material pleasure in this world that was not part of a mitzva. In fact the pleasure he experiences in this world will turn into the fiery venom of a snake. And even though the tzadikim will suffer the travails of the grave, but not for partaking in gratuitous pleasure in this world - since their intent was always for the sake of heaven. In fact for the tzadikim all the pleasure they have is considered as a mitzva since it is done for the sake of heaven and their eating is considered as a sacrificial offering.

Money Isn't Everything, Even to Doctors

Time Magazine

Many health policy experts, including those who wrote the Affordable Care Act, believe there's only one thing that can get doctors to change their behavior — money. A new study may blow a giant hole in that belief, just in time to save the government millions or even billions of dollars.

"Pay-For-Performance" is the theory that health care wonks believe could bring the U.S. health care system back from the financial brink. Pay for quality; compensate for competency. If we can just reward doctors when their patients stay or get healthy, we can solve a lot of what ails us systemically. Healthier patients are less expensive to care for and place less strain on the medical system. If doctors are incentivized to keep their patients from getting sick (or sicker), staggering amounts of money and time could be saved. At least that's the theory behind some of the most experimental and innovative provisions in the new health reform law. (More on In Rural Areas, There May Be No Doctors to Tend to Your Sick Kid)

Right now, doctors don't get paid this way. For the most part, the government (via Medicare or Medicaid) or private insurance companies pay physicians for each individual task they perform. There are no penalties or rewards if these doctors choose the wrong treatments or if a patient's chronic disease isn't well managed. The more treatments, surgeries, or office visits a doctor performs, the more money he or she makes. [...]

California rabbis bring show of unity


The diversity of Jewish religious practice was on display when an eclectic group of 37 male and female rabbis visiting from Northern California shuffled into the Bina Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture seminary in grimy south Tel Aviv last Thursday.

Some were affiliated with Chabad Hassidut and sported bushy beards and tallit fringes sticking out from their shirts. Others were Reform and Conservative rabbis wearing little or no visible Jewish garb, and at least one female rabbi was wearing a kippa.

They had agreed to put aside their differences and in a show of crossdenominational solidarity come to Israel for a week-long fact-finding mission. [...]

Bostoner Rebbe zt"l

Jewish Action

A very long and productive life came to an end last December—long not just because the Bostoner Rebbe died at the age of eighty-eight (18 Kislev 5770), but because of what he packed into each day.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Why Almost Everything You Hear About Medicine Is Wrong


If you follow the news about health research, you risk whiplash. First garlic lowers bad cholesterol, then—after more study—it doesn’t. Hormone replacement reduces the risk of heart disease in postmenopausal women, until a huge study finds that it doesn’t (and that it raises the risk of breast cancer to boot). Eating a big breakfast cuts your total daily calories, or not—as a study released last week finds. Yet even if biomedical research can be a fickle guide, we rely on it.

But what if wrong answers aren’t the exception but the rule? More and more scholars who scrutinize health research are now making that claim. It isn’t just an individual study here and there that’s flawed, they charge. Instead, the very framework of medical investigation may be off-kilter, leading time and again to findings that are at best unproved and at worst dangerously wrong. The result is a system that leads patients and physicians astray—spurring often costly regimens that won’t help and may even harm you. [...]

Students' Emotional Health at 25-Year Low; Girls Especially Hard Hit

ABC News

 new report -- the most comprehensive annual survey of full-time college students at four-year colleges -- concluding that the emotional health of college freshmen has dropped to its lowest level in 25 years.

The survey, "The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2010," was conducted by UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute and included 200,000 students. The number of freshmen who said their emotional health was "below average" has risen steadily, according to the report. [...]

Egypt kills all Internet activity in attempts to stem protest tide


Almost simultaneously, the handful of companies that pipe the Internet into and out of Egypt went dark as protesters were gearing up for a fresh round of demonstrations calling for the end of President Hosni Mubarak's nearly 30-year rule, experts said.

Egypt has apparently done what many technologists thought was unthinkable for any country with a major Internet economy: It unplugged itself entirely from the Internet to try and silence dissent. [...]

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Seeing others oppressed and not helping is considered being the oppressor

Ibn Ezra (Shemos 22:20): Concerning a ger - When the ger accepts not to worship idols do not upset him in your land just because you have much greater power than he does. Remember that you were once gerim like him. Just as the verse mentions the ger who is helpless, the Torah here also mentions the orphan and the widow who are Jews who are helpless. Furthermore it first says not to upset in the plural grammatical form and then it says if you upset in the singular form. That means whoever sees the orphan or widow being persecuted and doesn’t help them he will also be considered the oppressor.

Ibn Ezra (Shemos 21: 22): If you afflict – The punishment - when one person afflicts another who has no one to protect him – is on everyone [who did not help]. Therefore G d comes after them and in His anger kills all of them….

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Nachum Gamzu: Knowing the consequences of delaying help to those in urgent need

Soncino translation.

Tannis (21a): It is related of Nahum of Gamzu that he was blind in both his eyes, his two hands and legs were amputated — and his whole body was covered with boils and he was lying in a dilapidated house on a bed the feet of which were standing in bowls of water in order to prevent the ants from crawling on to him. On one occasion his disciples desired to remove the bed and then clear the things out of the house, but he said to them, My children, first clear out the things [from the house] and then remove my bed for I am confident that so long as I am in the house it will not collapse. They first cleared out the things and then they removed his bed and the house [immediately] collapsed. Thereupon his disciples said to him, Master, since you are wholly righteous, why has all this befallen you? and he replied, I have brought it all upon myself. Once I was journeying on the road and was making for the house of my father-in-law and I had with me three asses, one laden with food, one with drink and one with all kinds of dainties, when a poor man met me and stopped me on the road and said to me, Master, give me something to eat. I replied to him, Wait until I have unloaded something from the ass; I had hardly managed to unload something from the ass when the man died [from hunger]. I then went and laid myself on him and exclaimed, May my eyes which had no pity upon your eyes become blind, may my hands which had no pity upon your hands be cut off, may my legs which had no pity upon your legs be amputated, and my mind was not at rest until I added, may my whole body be covered with boils. Thereupon his pupils exclaimed, ‘Alas! that we see you in such a sore plight’. To this he replied, ‘Woe would it be to me did you not see me in such a sore plight’.

Nabokov Butterfly Theory Is Vindicated


Vladimir Nabokov may be known to most people as the author of classic novels like “Lolita” and “Pale Fire.” But even as he was writing those books, Nabokov had a parallel existence as a self-taught expert on butterflies.

He was the curator of lepidoptera at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, and collected the insects across the United States. He published detailed descriptions of hundreds of species. And in a speculative moment in 1945, he came up with a sweeping hypothesis for the evolution of the butterflies he studied, a group known as the Polyommatus blues. He envisioned them coming to the New World from Asia over millions of years in a series of waves.

Few professional lepidopterists took these ideas seriously during Nabokov’s lifetime. But in the years since his death in 1977, his scientific reputation has grown. And over the past 10 years, a team of scientists has been applying gene-sequencing technology to his hypothesis about how Polyommatus blues evolved. On Tuesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, they reported that Nabokov was absolutely right. [...]

Mideast in turmoil


As the Obama administration confronts the spectacle of angry protesters and baton-wielding riot police officers from Tunisia to Egypt to Lebanon, it is groping for a plan to deal with an always-vexing region that is now suddenly spinning in dangerous directions.

As the Obama administration confronts the spectacle of angry protesters and baton-wielding riot police officers from Tunisia to Egypt to Lebanon, it is groping for a plan to deal with an always-vexing region that is now suddenly spinning in dangerous directions.

These were surprising turns. But even the administration’s signature project in the region — Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations — became even more intractable this week, with the publication of confidential documents detailing Palestinian concessions offered in talks with Israel. The disclosure makes it less likely that the Palestinians will agree to any further concessions. [...]

Child & Domestic Abuse vol I & II are selling nicely

The first delivery of books has been made to stores this week and
interest seems high. It is now available in stores in Brooklyn, Boston &
Baltimore. The fears of the stores stocking it seems to have been
overblown. It will take a few weeks to stabilize supply and demand. It
is still available on line at Amazon if your local store doesn't have it..

ADHD: U of Maryland wants participants in online study

Abigail Mintz, M.S. has left a new comment on your post "Attention-Deficit (ADHD) is real and not caused by...":

University of Maryland at College Park is conducting a research study to learn more about fathers who have children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) so that we can eventually use this knowledge to improve treatment for families of children with ADHD. If you are the biological father of a 5 - 12 year old child with ADHD or undiagnosed significant attention/disruptive behavior problems, you may be eligible for this study.

Your participation in this study would consist of completing online questionnaires which will take approximately 30 minutes. You will be asked questions about your parenting, your own behavior and emotions, and your child’s behavior.

As compensation for your participation, you will be entered into a drawing with a 1 in 50 chance of receiving a $50 Amazon gift certificate.

If you are interested, please follow the link below to the study. This link will direct you to all informed consent documents and the study.


If you are the mother of a child with ADHD, we would greatly appreciate if you would consider forwarding this study information to your child's father.

Rashi indicates one's children are punished for not fighting molesters

This weeks' parsha has a wakeup call to all those who are ignoring the problem of child and wife abuse and don't think it warrants their attention.

The Torah in this weeks parsha Shemos (22:21-23) states:

You should not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict them, and they cry to Me, I will surely hear their cry; and My anger will burn hot and I will kill you with the sword and your wives will become widows and your children orphans.

Rashi states that this punishment of wife and children applies to all cases where a helpless victim is ignored. It is important to note this is not addressing the punishment of the tormentor but those upstanding citizens who ignore the cries of the helpless and do nothing.

No widow and orphan should be afflicted – In fact no one else should be afflicted either but the Torah is describing the typical case. Since they are weak and helpless, it is common that they are afflicted. And your wives will become widows -  Since this is clearly understood from the fact that the verse says, “I will kill you” so why is it necessary to say that “your wives will become widows and your sons orphans?”  This indicates an additional curse that they will  be prohibited to remarry because there will not be witnesses to the death of their husband. The lesson we learn by the Torah saying “your sons will be orphans” is that the beis din will not allow them to benefit from the inheritance of their father since it will be unknown whether he in fact died or has been captured.

The Malbim says that Rashi is following the view of Rabbi Yishmael that the verse is referring to all those who have no protector - which obviously includes victims of molesters who are defenseless and are ignored. However Rabbi Akiva says this harsh punishment is reserved specifcally for those who ignore the suffering of widows and orphans.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Michale Fruend:Columbus of hidden "Jews"


He wanders Amazon jungles, travels to Chinese villages, searches Spain for Marranos, and sees India’s Bnei Menashe as his life's mission. Michael Freund has an obsession: Discovering remote Jews [...]

'Chastity Squad' member sent to prison for store attack


A member of Jerusalem's so-called "Chastity Squad" who attacked a store owner and drove away his customers – is going to jail, The Jerusalem District Court decided Tuesday. Judge Nava Ben-Or sentenced Shmuel Weisfish, 24, to two years in prison following his conviction for several charges of violence against the owner of an electronics store in the ultra-religious Geula neighborhood in Jerusalem. [...]

Alien Hand Syndrome sees woman attacked by her own hand


An operation to control her epilepsy left Karen Byrne with no control of her left hand

Imagine being attacked by one of your own hands, which repeatedly tries to slap and punch you. Or you go into a shop and when you try to turn right, one of your legs decides it wants to go left, leaving you walking round in circles.

Last summer I met 55-year-old Karen Byrne in New Jersey, who suffers from Alien Hand Syndrome.

Her left hand, and occasionally her left leg, behaves as if it were under the control of an alien intelligence.

Post mortem mila:A Young Life Passes, and a Ritual of Birth Begins


My hands trembled as I grasped the tiny sleeve of skin with my forceps and separated it from his pale, still penis. He lay weirdly motionless on a utility table, which I had draped with a slate-blue operating-room towel.

A few feet away, his young parents sat quietly wrapped in each other’s arms. Several family members and friends stood silently around the periphery of the small hospital room, whose gray-green walls enveloped us dispassionately.

The pregnancy had been uneventful. A month before the due date I had received a familiar, reluctant, yet eager call about arranging a bris, the ritual Jewish circumcision performed on the eighth day of life. The expectant parents promised to call back after delivery to confirm the date and time so they could order the deli platters. [...]

Self-control - secret to success: Confirmation of the classic marshmellow study

Time Magazine

Self-control may be the secret to success, according to a persuasive new study that followed 1,000 children from birth to age 32: children who showed early signs of self-mastery were not only less likely to have developed addictions or committed a crime by adulthood, but were also healthier and wealthier than their more impulsive peers.

Problems surfacing in adolescence, such as becoming a smoker or getting pregnant, accounted for about half of the bad outcomes associated with low self-control in childhood. Kids who scored low on such measures — for instance, becoming easily frustrated, lacking persistence in reaching goals or performing tasks, or having difficulty waiting their turn in line — were roughly three times more likely to wind up as poor, addicted, single parents or to have multiple health problems as adults, compared with children who behaved more conscientiously as early as age 3. [...]

Incredible!!!! Tropper's arrival in Israel - greeted with great honor by rabbis


הקול, קול יעקב • התוועדו עם הרב לאחר תקופה ארוכה, הגיע הרב ליב טרופר לארץ • הוא קיבל חיזוק מגדולי ישראל והתוועד עם עשרות תלמידי ישיבת 'קול יעקב' • דיווח ותמונות

עשרות איש נועדו במוצאי שבת שירה בבית-המדרש בשכונת הבוכרים בירושלים עם מייסד ישיבת 'קול יעקב' במונסי, הרב ליב טרופר מניו-יורק.

קשה להאמין כי כל המשתתפים באירוע, בני תורה ברמ"ח איבריהם, חזרו בתשובה. אחד היה רופא, השני ספורטאי - וכן הלאה. כולם היו רחוקים מתורה ומצוות. עד שהגיעו לישיבת 'קול יעקב', שם ניצת בהם הניצוץ היהודי . 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Michael Freund: "Bring The Bnei Menashe Home To Israel

Jewish Press

Several time zones away, in the farthest reaches of northeastern India, live thousands of men and women longing to rejoin the Jewish people.[...]

In 2005, the Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, Shlomo Amar, formally recognized the Bnei Menashe as "descendants of Israel" and encouraged their return to Israel and the Jewish people.
Over the past decade, more than 1,700 members of the community have made aliyah to Israel thanks to Shavei Israel, the organization I chair.
All have undergone formal conversion by the Chief Rabbinate to remove any doubts regarding their personal status and have been granted Israeli citizenship.
But another 7,232 remain in India, anxiously awaiting their chance to make aliyah. The time has come to put an end to their waiting.[...]

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tiger Moms: Is Tough Parenting Really the Answer?

Time Magazine

t was the "Little White Donkey" incident that pushed many readers over the edge. That's the name of the piano tune that Amy Chua, Yale law professor and self-described "tiger mother," forced her 7-year-old daughter Lulu to practice for hours on end — "right through dinner into the night," with no breaks for water or even the bathroom, until at last Lulu learned to play the piece.

For other readers, it was Chua calling her older daughter Sophia "garbage" after the girl behaved disrespectfully — the same thing Chua had been called as a child by her strict Chinese father. (See a TIME Q&A with Amy Chua.)

And, oh, yes, for some readers it was the card that young Lulu made for her mother's birthday. "I don't want this," Chua announced, adding that she expected to receive a drawing that Lulu had "put some thought and effort into." Throwing the card back at her daughter, she told her, "I deserve better than this. So I reject this."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Child & Domestic Abuse book to be sold at Eichler's Flatbush

In a few days Eichler's of Flatbush will be the first seforim store to be selling my book. It will still be available from Amazon.

phone number 718 258 763 or 888 342 4537 to check for availablity

address is Coney Island Avenue between Avenue J and Avenue K.

Why a U.N. Resolution on Israel Leaves Obama Facing a Dilemma


It was always going to be a struggle for the U.S. to dissuade its Arab allies from going ahead with a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements. But last week's people-power rebellion in Tunisia has only made Washington's effort to lobby against the plan more difficult. Tunisia will have given the autocratic leaders of countries such as Egypt and Jordan more reason to fear their own people. For those regimes, symbolically challenging unconditional U.S. support for Israel is a low-cost gesture that will play well on the restive street.

Going ahead with the resolution, discussed Wednesday at the Security Council, demanding an immediate halt to all Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is, of course, a vote of no-confidence in U.S. peacemaking efforts. And it creates an immediate headache for the Obama Administration, over whether to invoke the U.S. veto — as Washington has traditionally done on Council resolutions critical of Israel. The twist this time: the substance of the current resolution largely echoes the Administration's own stated positions

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Child abuse book: Interview with Dr. Asher Lipner - psychologist

The following are comments that are part of a recent interview of Dr. Asher Lipner - a prominent psychotherapist dealing with sexual abuse . The rest of the interview was published in the public media. Dr. Lipner sent them to me with permission to publish them here.

What do are your thoughts on R. Daniel Eidensohn's book on child abuse? 

 For full disclosure, let me say I played a role in the book's publication both by writing a chapter and by editing parts of the book.  It is an incredible labor of love put together by a man who truly cares about the Jewish people.  It examines the issues of domestic violence and child abuse from so many angles with sophistication, depth and compassion.  It is Torah scholarship at its best, as Rabbi Eidensohn is able to bring complex Torah ideas down to simple utilizable tools to be used to protect women and children. 

 What are some of his conclusions?

That there is a mitzvah to confront abuse in order to protect others, and that each one of us has this obligation.  That sex crimes need to be reported to the police without any halachic concern about the misconstrued concept of Mesira that does not apply.  That more open discussion must take place in the community with less concern about "immodest speech" in discussing the problem, and more concern with the grossly immodest behavior the problem represents.  That obsessive concern about stigma and shidduchim has wreaked havoc on the emotional, physical and spiritual well-being of generations of our children and needs to stop.  And perhaps most importantly, that where there is a communal will there is a way stop this problem and protect our children.

 How do you differ on issues with him?

 We do not differ significantly in what we believe the community needs to do.  We differ only in our roles.  Reb Daniel is blessed with a close personal relationship with some of the biggest rabbis in Israel, and he works tirelessly to create a dialogue between them and mental health professionals and lawyers to address the issue.  He does this by acting with the highest level of sensitivity to the cultural, societal and even political realities that working together with the Charedi leadership requires.

 I am just a simple Jew who works “in the trenches” day to day with survivors of abuse and their families, helping them repair their broken lives. My methodology of advocating for them is often not as sensitive to the communal norms and regular “business as usual”.  Sometimes I need to help the survivors scream out their pain in any way they can, even if it offends the community’s sensitivity.  Being that there is an alarmingly high suicide rate among survivors of sexual trauma, in some cases this "do whatever it takes to get people to listen" approach has been necessary in order to literally save lives.

Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: Organ donor cards are not incompatible with Jewish law

British Guardian

You reported that I have issued an edict that "organ donation and the carrying of donor cards are incompatible with Jewish law" (Doctors criticise chief rabbi's edict against donor cards, 12 January). That is not so.

Wherever we can save life, we should. That is a longstanding and fundamental proposition of Judaism, and it means that we favour organ donations. Our clarification of the Jewish law on this subject should not "reduce the number of donations" or "put lives at risk".

At the heart of Judaism is the principle of the sanctity of life, which flows directly from the proposition in the first chapter of the Bible that we are all in the image and likeness of God. The secular counterpart is Kant's principle that we should treat others as ends in themselves, not as means to an end. This generates moral consequences, including the duty to honour life and the duty to save life. Usually these two principles coincide, but sometimes they conflict.[...]

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Appeals court: Yisroel Weingarten improperly convicted of one count of incest - but upheld remaining abuse charges


A perverted Hasidic rabbi who sexually abused his daughter throughout her adolescence could get 10 years knocked off his sentence under terms of an appeals court decision this morning.

Israel Weingarten was improperly convicted on one count involving incest that occurred during a trip from Belgium to Israel, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled.

The unanimous decree says that citizens can't be found guilty in America for crimes committed overseas unless there's a "territorial nexus to the United States."

The three-judge panel upheld other convictions covering abuse that took place during travel from Brooklyn to Belgium, and from Israel to Brooklyn.[...]

The smoking gun: Vatican Warned Irish Bishops Not to Report Abuse


 A 1997 letter from the Vatican warned Ireland's Catholic bishops not to report all suspected child-abuse cases to police — a disclosure that victims' groups described as "the smoking gun" needed to show that the church enforced a worldwide culture of covering up crimes by pedophile priests.

The newly revealed letter, obtained by Irish broadcasters RTE and provided to The Associated Press, documents the Vatican's rejection of a 1996 Irish church initiative to begin helping police identify pedophile priests following Ireland's first wave of publicly disclosed lawsuits.

The letter undermines persistent Vatican claims, particularly when seeking to defend itself in U.S. lawsuits, that Rome never instructed local bishops to withhold evidence or suspicion of crimes from police. It instead emphasizes the church's right to handle all child-abuse allegations and determine punishments in house rather than give that power to civil authorities. [...]

Study: 61% of men don't see forced sex with acquaintance as rape


Over half of Israeli men - 61 percent - do not consider forcing sex on an acquaintance as rape, a study conducted by Tel-Hai Academic College recently found. Moreover, 41 percent of Israeli women share that view

The study was conducted last fall by Dr. Avigail Moor, a clinical psychologist who specializes in treating victims of sexual violence.

Moor asked her respondents two main questions: The first was whether they believed forced sex with an acquaintance constitutes rape; the second was whether they felt forced sex with a stranger constitutes rape. Respondents were asked to provide a simple yes or no answer. [...]

Monday, January 17, 2011

R' Pinchos Lifschutz: The Blogs are a destructive force

It’s Time to Take a Stand

Tarring The Frum Community With One Brush

A similar campaign to disparage frum Yidden in the religious Jewish media has been underway for some time. Cloaked deceptively in a religious veneer, using Yiddish names and faces, the relentless disparaging of the Torah community by anonymous bloggers, and certain publications, is diluting the power of Torah and halacha among religious Jewry in our society.

Many of the individuals who habitually undermine our community’s values using purported “news reporting” are emboldened by the built-in anonymity of the internet. They prey on the public’s weakest tendencies. These people, if identified, would draw scorn for their outrageous character assaults and gossip-mongering. They would be pitied for how far they have drifted.

Yet, these people, by virtue of their access to the public through a so-called “religious” blog, have the ability to promote their agenda.[...]

Video game addiction: Researchers identify risk factors

Los Angeles Times

Most kids don't become addicted to playing video games, though it may seem that way to parents. But a new study identifies risk factors for "pathological," or obsessive, gamers and says that such children become more depressed and anxious the more they play.

The study released Monday in the journal Pediatrics looked at more than 3,000 elementary- and middle-school children in Singapore over a two-year period. The report says in part:

"Greater amounts of gaming, lower social competence, and greater impulsivity seemed to act as risk factors for becoming pathological gamers, whereas depression, anxiety, social phobias, and lower school performance seemed to act as outcomes of pathological gaming." [...]

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Secular kiruv: You’re Young and Jewish: Discuss


ON a cold Saturday morning in May 2007, Nicola Behrman, a playwright from Los Angeles, stood in a bare conference room at a ski lodge in Park City, Utah. She was surrounded by 60 strangers, tucked shoulder-to-shoulder in a circle — all members of a group called Reboot, which since 2002 has conducted an annual conference for young, affluent Jews to discuss their ethnic and religious identity, in between spa treatments and walks among the ponderosa pines of the Wasatch Mountains.

Each attendee had been asked to pose a question related to being a Jew. Ms. Behrman, who grew up Orthodox in London but hadn't been to a synagogue in years, recounted a story about her beloved grandmother's appointment book, which on May 31, 1965, contained the words, "susan, dentist," a reminder to take her daughter in for a checkup. Why didn't Jews write down life lessons for those left behind after they died? Ms. Behrman was wondering. She picked up a white card from a table nearby, scribbled "susan, dentist ..." in green ink and posted it on a corkboard at the back of the room. The act felt cathartic. [...]

Rubashkin and Pidyon Shuyim - Some Clarity

Five Towns Jewish Times - Rabbi Yair Hoffman

In shul this past week, the recent debate in the pages of the Five Towns Jewish Times between Rabbi Aryeh Zev Ginzberg and Ze’ev Gold became the subject of discussion.  Ze’ev Gold posed the question as to whether the Rubashkin case was really Pidyon Shvuyim or not.  Rabbi Ginzberg had received a ruling from Rav Chaim Kaniefsky Shlita that, indeed, it was full and complete Pidyon Shvuyim.

If so, asked Mr. Gold, why didn’t Rabbi Ginsburg’s shul empty out their Shul building fund?  Rabbi Ginzberg was slightly evasive in his response but did refer Mr. Gold to the ruling of the Aruch haShulchan.  Mr. Gold quoted Rabbonim who ruled that it is not real full-fledged Pidyon Shvuyim.  Rabbi Ginzberg repeated unequivocally that it was complete Pidyon Shvuyim.

What is going on here? [...]

Sarah Palin and the State of Halachic Discourse

Cross Currents R Yitzchok Adlerstein

The Orthodox community has more at stake in the so-called “brain death” controversy than in the etiology of Jared Lee Loughner’s delusions. Rabbi Dov Fischer discussed some of the issues in an earlier piece on Cross-Currents, including the impropriety of an online petition in favor of the “brain death” criteria. Rabbi Fischer correctly bemoaned the fact that a group of rabbis would be setting fires of public criticism of the Torah community, rather than putting them out. (By way of contrast, a friend of mine was asked by a leader of a state legislature about Orthodox attitudes towards organ donation, having read some disturbing material in the popular press. My friend, who has good background in both the halachic and medical aspects of the issue, sat down with the legislator, and explained the traditional point of view, after which the politician “got it,” without rancor or resentment.) I would go further than Rabbi Fischer. Calling a position that is embraced by rov minyan v’rov binyan of serious halachists “morally untenable” is nothing less than morally untenable! [...]

Conversion: Yated metes out cautious criticism at Yosef, Amar


Haredi-Lithuanian mouthpiece Yated Ne'eman on Sunday expressed “shock, as well as pained and utter protest over the desecration of approving thousands of military 'conversions,'” in its inevitable reaction to the Friday decision of President of the Shas Council of Torah Sages Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who declared the disputed past IDF conversions kosher. Following Yosef's ruling, Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar on the same day issued the necessary document to authorize some 4,500 such conversions, which were lacking his signature. [...]

State approves all army conversions with Rav O Yosef's psak


After Rabbi Ovadia Yosef issues halachic ruling determining that army conversions are kosher, Chie Rabbi Shlomo Amar instructs relevant authorities to officially recognize 4,500 conversions on state's behalf. Lithuanian rabbis livid  [...]

Chicago man admits to running Israeli-American money laundering scam


U.S. authorities uncovered a Chicago-based Israeli-American money laundering network responsible for an alleged tax evasion of over $45 million, the Chicago Tribune reported on Saturday

The Chicago Tribune reported that 64-year-old Marvin Berkowitz entered a guilty plea Friday as part of an agreement weeks before his trial was to begin in federal court in Chicago.

Berkowitz stole the identities of dead people and federal prisoners to file for tax refunds in 28 states. He fled to Jerusalem to avoid charges in a 2003 tax fraud case and was arrested there in August 2009 in an operation codenamed "American Pie." [...]

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Have a Food Allergy? It’s Time to Recheck


Food allergies have generated a great deal of anxiety in recent years, with some schools going so far as to ban popular staples — especially peanut butter — after appeals from worried parents.

Some airlines have quit serving peanut snacks, and more and more restaurants are offering dishes for diners concerned about gluten or dairy allergies.

There is no question that some foods, especially peanuts and shellfish, can provoke severe reactions in a small fraction of the population. But a new analysis of the best available evidence finds that many children and adults who think they have food allergies are mistaken. [...]

Bnei Brak rabbi accused of arranging illicit conversions


The battle of anonymous mudslinging between Lithuanian haredi elements and champions of Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar in the wake of the latest conversion controversy rose a notch on Wednesday, with pashkevilim (street notices) plastered in Bnei Brak charging a local, senior rabbi of converting a woman “for the intent of marriage, which is prohibited according to the Torah’s law.”

The unnamed rabbi supposedly headed a panel in the framework of the haredi Beit Din Zedek so the convert could marry a relative of his. This, according to the unnamed Amar supporters behind Wednesday’s notices, is proof of the hypocrisy of the Ashkenazi haredi camp, which recently slammed the chief Sephardi rabbi for his rumored intention to approve IDF conversions.[...]

Sarah Palin's Claim: What Is 'Blood Libel'?

Time Magazine

Sarah Palin must have hoped that her Jan. 12 video statement would silence her critics, who, in the wake of the Tuscon shootings, have accused the controversial politician of contributing to the vitriolic rhetoric that plagues U.S. politics. But then Palin decided to describe the attacks leveled against her as a "blood libel." The phrase has a long, grim legacy tied to centuries of European persecution of Jews. Bigoted superstition had it that Jews needed the blood of heathens for various ritual practices. Within hours of the statement's publication and the video's appearance on Facebook, the Anti-Defamation League criticized Palin's message, saying that, while blood libel "has become part of English parlance to refer to someone being falsely accused, we wish that Palin had used another phrase, instead of one so fraught with pain in Jewish history."

On the other hand, a group called declared that "the use of the term blood libel is appropriate." Meanwhile, on, Alan Dershowitz of the Harvard Law School said the term "has taken on a broad metaphorical meaning" and "There is nothing improper and certainly nothing anti-Semitic in Sarah Palin using the term to characterize what she reasonably believes are false accusations..." [...]

Privacy, Copyright Top Challenges of the Internet

Time Magazine

Another topic that concerned IADAS members was how outdated media copyright laws were and the increasing necessity to see them changed. It used to be perfectly okay to give a mix tape to a couple friends, but putting a playlist online - which is a similar action in a way - could render negative consequences. Same goes for lending books, which has a modern day equivalent of copying and distributing digital books online. Davies believes that many users aren't trying to circumvent laws: They're simply confused on what is right and wrong because legalities are not adapted to current technology. "I think at the core, one of the big issues is that the majority of the laws and understandings about copyright were created in a world where it was difficult to copy. Actually copying something has never been more easy than it is today. You can literally right click on a file and depending on the size it can be downloaded in seconds," he explained. [...]

Child Abuse:Halachic Perspectives in protecting our children - Rabbi Noach Oelbaum

Rabbi Noach Oelbaum video

Part of a major program of speakers

Brain Death - Rav Shabtsai Rappaport reports his discussion with his grandfather Rav Moshe Feinstein

אסיא מז-מח, עמ' 5-13 (1989

What follows is a clear illustration of the unquestioned fact that the view of Rav Moshe Feinstein regarding brain death is inexplicably given to  major dispute - and that his son Rav Dovid Feinstein did not discuss the issue with his father. In fact this article appeared in 1989 when I left America to settle in Jerusalem. Rav Halperin M.D. - the editor of Assia and the author of this article sent me a copy in the hopes of convincing me to allow him to publish the medical citations from my Yad Moshe index in his publication. When I left America brain death was a very hot topic and it was clear that no one had the definitive answer as to what Rav Moshe held on the subject and in fact it seemed no one had asked him for a clear and authoritative psak. The debate revolved around how to read the teshuvos printed in the Igros Moshe. When I read in this artcile that Rabbi Rappaport had in fact reported asking his grandfather - I was simply floored. Because this information that he reports in the article was apparently not known to anyone else. When I mentioned this to Rav Halperin he told me that even if my assertion was true but he said now the issue has been answered so don't be concerned about the past.

בשאלה האם חזר בו הגרמ"פ מהאיסור לבצע השתלות לב נחלקו הכותבים : הרב משה דוד טנדלר, חתנו של הגרמ"פ, כתב11 :

"חמי הרב משה פיינשטיין זצ"ל היה מודע היטב להתקדמות הזאת והתיר ניתוחי השתלות לב בשנים האחרונות. אכן, שכן שלי שהושתלו אצלו לב ושתי ריאות לפני שנתיים בפיטסבורג (קבוצת ד"ר סטרזל) עשה כן לאחר יעוץ עם הרב פיינשטיין ועם, ייבדל לחיים, הרבי מלובביץ שליט"א."

לעומתו כתב הרב דוד שור:12

"וכעת דברתי עם הרב דוד פיינשטיין שליט"א, בן הרב משה פיינשטיין זצ"ל, והוא העיד לי שאביו לא התחרט בכלל לפני מותו ממה שכתב בשו"ת אגרות משה בסימני מיתה והשתלת הלב."

בירור ישיר עם הרב דוד פיינשטיין13 העלה שבניגוד למצוטט בשמו, אין בידו מידע הסותר את עדות הרב טנדלר, אף כי אין בידו מידע המאשר עדות זאת.

לסיכום, אין עדות הסותרת את עדות משפחת טנדלר על השינוי בדעתו של הגרמ"פ להתיר השתלות לב עקב ההתקדמות הרפואית אך קיים ויכוח חריף על הדרך להבנת הכתוב בתשובותיו "איגרות משה".

לאור ויכוח זה פניתי אל הרב שבתאי רפפורט שליט"א (אשר היה בקשר ישיר עם הגרמ"פ זצ"ל בעת הכנת התשובה הנדונה, לדפוס) על מנת לקבל בכתב את התיחסותו לויכוח הנדון. תשובתו היתה חד משמעית:


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Customized Kids: Parents Abort Twin Boys in Quest for Daughter

Time Magazine

Of course, every parent-in-waiting hopes for a healthy baby, but most — whether they admit it or not — have a preference for one sex over the other. But to what extremes would you go to make it happen?

A couple in Australia — already parents of three sons —have announced they have aborted twin boys in their quest to replace their baby daughter, who died soon after birth. Although sex selection via IVF is illegal in Australia, they petitioned a patient review panel for permission, which was denied. They've now appealed to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which is slated to hear their case in March [...]

Brain Death: View of Rav Moshe Feinstein is not clear & Rav Herschel Schacter says BD is a sofek

There are a number of issues being obscured in the current debate about Brain Death is 1) The position of Rav Moshe Feinstein is a matter of serious debate and disagreement. Furthermore Rav Herschel Schacter takes a much more conservative position than Rav Moshe Tendler  Rav Dovid Feinstein did not have firsthand knowledge of his father's viewpoint.

JLaw by Rav Yitzchok Breitowitz

The position of R. Moshe Feinstein, whose psak could well have been definitive at least in the United States, is unfortunately a matter of some controversy. His son-in-law, Rabbi Dr. Moshe Tendler, a Rosh Yeshiva in RIETS and Professor of Biology, Yeshiva College, has vigorously argued the concept of decapitation in Mishnah Oholot.15 His position finds strong support in Iggrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah III no. 132 which seems to validate nuclide scanning as a valid determinant of death. This is also the understanding of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, R. David Feinstein (who admits, however, to having no inside information on the topic), and R. Shabtai Rappaport, the editor of R. Moshe responsa.16

Others, however, have interpreted his teshuvot very differently, pointing out that R. Moshe reiterated twice (indeed, in one instance two years after the "nuclide scanning" reference) that removal of an organ for a transplantation was murder of the donor.17 (R. Tendler's response: Both of those teshuvot refer to comatose patients in a persistent vegetative state who are capable of spontaneous respiration and are very much alive and not to those who are respirator­dependent.) They also cite R. Moshe's express opposition to proposed "brain death" legislation in New York unless it contained a "religious exemption."18 [...]

1. As noted, Rabbi Dr. Moshe Tendler has been the most vigorous advocate for the halachic acceptability of brain death criteria. In his capacity as chairman of the RCA's Biomedical Ethics Committee, Rabbi Tendler spearheaded the preparation of a health-care proxy form that, among other innovations, would authorize the removal of vital organs from a respirator dependent, brain death patient for transplantation purposes. Although the form was approved by the RCA's central administration, its provisions on brain death were opposed by a majority of the RCA's own Vaad Halacha (Rabbis Rivkin, Schachter, Wagner and Willig).20 [...]

5. Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Rosh Yeshiva and Rosh Kollel of RIETS, has taken a more cautious view. Conceding that the concept of "brain death" may find support in the decisions of R. Moshe, he concludes that such a patient should be in the category of safeik chai, safeik met (doubtful life). While removal of organs would be prohibited as possible murder, one would also have to be stringent in treating the patients as met, e.g., a Cohen would not be allowed to enter the patient's room.24

Brain Death: Jewish Observer article 1991 - Rav Tendler and the Aguda Response

Jewish Observer

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tzitz Eliezar - Incest: Obligation to call the police to stop physical & psychological harm

Tzitz Eliezar (Nishmas Avraham 4:208-211): …  2) Concerning the second case where the father is repeatedly raping his little daughter and there is no concern that he will kill her – what is the halacha regarding the previous questions? In my opinion the halacha is the same as it was in the first case where there was a concern for pikuach nefesh (life threatening). That is because the father has the status of rodef (pursuer) after prohibited sexual relations, which are, treated the same as one who is a rodef to kill someone. That is true only since the incestuous rape of his daughter entails the punishment of kares – even though she is just a child but that is the father’s punishment and therefore there is a clear obligation to stop him… All this is in addition to the halachic fact that there is an obligation to save the girl from physical and psychological damage. Thus taking this all together the answer concerning calling the police is the same as in the case of physical abuse. Concerning the cases mentioned there were an additional two questions that were mentioned concerning the law of moser. In regards to the first case concerning physical danger, the parents have the status of rodef and therefore it is permitted to inform the police about them. … just as in the first case of physical abuse if it is clear to him that there is a danger it is permitted to inform on him since the parents have the status of rodef. Similarly it is also permitted in the case of incestuous rape because the father is also a rodef – though after prohibited sexual relations rather than danger to life as I mentioned before. Secondly even if the sexual relationship with the child is not one that incurs the punishment of kares [and thus the rapist would not be considered a rodef] it is still permitted to inform the police. This is so both in order to save her from being raped and also in order to save the rapist from this wickedness. … in our case the motivation is to stop him from committing a sin by informing on him. With such a motivation it is permitted to inform on him. Furthermore it is permitted to inform on him to stop him from harming the young child. … Look at the Shulchan Aruch (C.M. 388:7 where the Rema says that there is a view that if a person is beaten by another person he is able to go and complain to the non-Jewish authorities – even if it causes his assailant great harm. Furthermore the Shach (C.M. 388:45) makes a similar distinction. He says that it is permitted to inform on the assailant in order to prevent the assailant from continuing his beatings. Therefore concerning the present case – it is obviously much more severe than a mere beating. Consequently it is permitted to inform on the rapist – both because it is like the case of an assailant who hits and even more important – so that he is prevented from raping her anymore. It is important to remember that the beis din is considered the protecting father of little children.

Rav Moshe Halberstam:- In case of incestual rape - mitzva to call police & send him to prison

Taken from volume II of Child & Domestic Abuse page 138

Rav Moshe Halberstam (Yeschurun 15 page 646): Let’s return to the original question concerning a wicked molester whose evil inclination forces him to sin and be wicked and it is possible to turn him over to the government in order that he be incarcerated in prison for a number of years until he calms done and returns to G﷓d wholeheartedly. According to the sources we discussed before it is clear that there is no sin or transgression in handing him over to the authorities. In fact the opposite is true – it is a mitzva because by doing so he is caused to stop from doing the disgusting deeds. In addition we know that the government will not execute him. Therefore the essence of his punishment is that he will be forced to dwell for a number of years in prison. This will be beneficial to him in that they will assign him a psychologist or psychiatrist who will supervise him  and his activities with a watchful eye. Perhaps he will be able to find a resolution of his torment by means of this treatment. So in such a case it is obvious that it is a good thing to save him and to save his family from his incestual attacks on them.

Alone together: Is Technology Making Us Lonelier?

Time Magazine

Digital communication is so pervasive that most of us don't even bother to question its role in society. That's not the case with Sherry Turkle, who has tracked the way we interact with computers and artificial intelligence since the 1970s. Founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, Turkle's new book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each Other, asks a simple question: do digital methods of communication connect us the way interaction in the 'real world' does? In late December, Turkle sat with TIME to discuss robot puppies, teen texting and what "full attention" means in an age of smart phones.

Alone Together concludes a trilogy of books that started with your exploration of the very first computer programs. Now, 26 years later, we have this giant soup of communication methods. How has that changed our relationship to technology?

It took a while for things to evolve to show [just] where we were vulnerable. This changed dramatically with mobile communication. Who would have known that a little red light on the Blackberry — that doesn't even say who a message is from, but simply that you have a message — would drive people crazy? So [crazy] that if their baby is in the car next to them and they know they can't text and drive, they will [still fiddle] with the steering wheel at 65 miles an hour in order to know who sent that message.[...]

Yisroel Weingarten: Translation of the Zeitung article regarding the visit of major rabbonim

I want to thank the translator who sent me this for completion. This is an unfortunate illustration of great men refusing to acknowledge the horrible and bitter reality of abuse - especially by someone who is a respected member of the community. Abusers typically are not repulsive monsters who hide in the shadows - they are typically friends and family brothers and husbands - teachers and community leaders.

Historic trip to the "valley of the shadow of death" to visit the great rabbi and scholar Yisroel Moshe Weingarten  in prison in Virginia. The most prominent of them was the great scholar Rav Moshe Green  - who despite being in very poor health -  traveled with great rabbis and activists to  bring a  letter of encouragement from Rav Tuvia Weiss the leader of the Eida Chardis in Jerusalem. 

An extraordinary, historic trip occurred this week onTuesday, when great rabbis and activists led by the great scholar Rabbi Moshe Green  went down to Virgina in order to visit the famous member of the yeshiva world and prominent Torah educator - the great scholar and tzadik Rabbi Israel Moshe Weingarten . He was rosh yeshiva of Netivot Hatalmud and produced many distinguished students who are now Torah scholars and G-d fearing men. He is unfortunately  now languishing in prison

This distinguished rosh yeshiva the great scholar Rabbi Yisrael Weingarten  is greatly treasured and cherished by all  the gedolim  that he has  become acquaintanced with - such as the Satmer Rebbe zt"l, the Minchas Yitzchok  and others. He is responsible for raising up a new righteous generation of. distinguished students who are a glory to the Jewish people.  Unfortunately as is well known he was incarcerated in prison by his wife and one daughter who went astray. They invented terrible lies about him. They decided that at all costs to have this distinguished man thrown in a dark prison for many long years. They thought that in this way they will succeed in leading his other children away from the true religious path because they do not want any more to be under the pious influence of the father, - as they in fact declared publicly in court. With the help of some government officials, they thought of a way that he should not be able to defend himself, and sent him to prison for 30 years..

The terrible slanderous stories which circulated for a long time were heard by the distinguished rabbis  including Rav Chaim Kreiswirth of  Antwerp, and Rav Tuvia Weis of Jerusalem. After a very thorough investigation they reached the clear and certain conclusion according to Daas Torah that these stories were no more than slanderous lies. Furthermore they ruled that it was a terrible sin to make these accusations against such a distinguished person and awesome Torah scholar..

When these slanderers saw that the Jewish courts were not taken in by their lies and sinister plans they did not hesitate to leave the path of Torah and go to a non-Jewish court. As is well known these courts are a place which clearly manifest the inherent hatred that non-Jews have for Jews. The judge did not allow him to defend himself and consequently he sentenced him to the horrible punishment of 30 years imprisonment..

In attendance at this trial were many loyal Jews who were supervised by Rav Tuvia Weiss  - who had been informed of this horrible situation from the beginning. He wanted to speak in tribute and honor of this great Torah scholar, Rav Yisroel Moshe. However the judge refused this request  when he arrogantly made this cruel ruling - even though Rav Weiss is one of the greatest Torah authorities of the Jewish people..

Monday, January 10, 2011

Yisroel Weingarten - a secular legal analysis of his trial

Israel Weingarten, the yeshiva teacher charged in Brooklyn, N.Y., federal court with sexually abusing his daughter for seven years, since she was 9years old, was found guilty Wednesday on all five counts.

With 14 federal marshals lining the courtroom, Eastern District of New York Judge John Gleeson warned the audience against emotional outbursts, but the verdict was met with near silence. With its pro se defendant, sensational charges and furtive peeks behind the closed doors of the secretive Satmar society, United States v. Weingarten has transfixed the Brooklyn legal community.

Following the announcement of the verdict, Weingarten, who appeared pro se, told the court, "As I said to the judge in the beginning, I need adjournment because I was unprepared and I was denied that." Gleeson responded, "You have your objection, you have my ruling. I'll see you [for sentencing] on April 3." [....]

Historic visit of Rabbinic Delegation to HaRav HaGaon Yisroel Moshe Weingarten shlita in prison in Virginia

Zalmen Leib wrote, "a. There is nothing wrong with Rabbis visiting even the worst of the worst in prison b. Aside from that, how do you even know it is Weingarten they visited?"

A  reasonable question if all you saw was the Matzav article. However Matzav was based on an article which appeared in Zeitung  - I have attached the beginning of the article. Even if you don't understand Yiddish you will notice that the headline is what I placed as the subject of this post. It is clear they view him as a great man! Matzav at least had the sense of shame to delete his name - though I am not sure why they publicized this event. I am publicizing the fact that he is being glorified and that is a terrible problem. We see that people who do terrible things are still respected in some circles and thus we have a long way to go.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Rabbinic delegation visit prisoner serving 25 years for incestual rape


This past Tuesday, January 4, Rabbi Moshe Green, rosh yeshiva of the Yeshivah D’Monsey, in Monsey, NY, visiting Richmond, Virginia, to be mechazeik Jewish inmates there.

Rav Green rarely leaves Monsey, or NY at all, particularly since he has suffered two strokes and uses a wheelchair.Rav Green was accompanied by his son, Rav Avrohom Green, and his grandson, R’ Yaakov Flohr. They were driven by car from Monsey to Baltimore, MD, where they slept for a few hours, and continued in the pre-dawn hours to Virginia, where they participated in the daily 7:15 am Shacharis minyan at the Yeshiva of Virginia in the Near West End of Richmond. [...]

They then continued together to Hopewell, VA, for the main purpose of their visit, which was to give spiritual encouragement to the Jewish inmate community at the Petersburg Federal Prison in Hopewell, VA. Among the inmates is a prominent member of the Monsey community. [...]

The conviction of Yisroel Weingarten NYDaily News

The world as a game:Magid of Mezeritch

this is a continuation of the post regarding the dichotomy as viewing life as a game versus as reality. Below is a statement which says that G-d knows that this world is trivial - both its joys and hardships i.e., it is a game to get rewarded and to be taken seriously.

Magid of Mezeritch (Likutei Yekarim page 12b): The tzadik doesn’t get satisfaction in this world. Even though he prays occasionally concerning worldly matters—he is not answered and his prayers are ignored. In truth it is because of G﷓d’s great love and fondness for the tzadik that He doesn’t answer him concerning worldly matters. This can be explain by the following parable. A king’s small son made a tiny house out of twigs—as children typically do—and someone came and broke it. The child ran crying to his father the king. He screamed and wailed to his father about the great tragedy that had befallen him. The king upon hearing about this “great tragedy” laughed—even though he loved his son very much. Because in the father’s eyes this loss was totally insignificant in comparison to the fabulous good that the king was prepared to give his son. The king also had in mind to build his son a glorious palace of unparalleled grandeur. Consequently the little house of twigs was so inconsequential in the eyes of the king that he saw no reason to take revenge on the person that had broken it. Therefore even though his son suffered greatly by his loss, his father ignored it. It was only a tragedy in the eyes of the child but not to the father who knew that his son was receiving infinitely more significant things. The meaning of the parable is obvious. Because G﷓d’s great love for the tzadik He will give him many great and wonderful things in the World to Come. Therefore he doesn’t pay attention to the suffering that the tzadik has in this world. He knows that the good things in the World to Come are infinitely greater than that which a person has in this world. He also knows that the good in this world is as nothing compared to the great and strong love that causes Him to give the tzadik the good reward in the World to Come.

Newer Antipsychotic Drugs Are Overused


 Many people taking powerful psychiatric medications that increase their risk of weight gain and diabetes are prescribed those drugs when there’s little evidence that they will get any benefit from them, a new study shows.

What’s more, experts say that even when these drugs, which are known as atypical antipsychotics, are prescribed as recommended, they may not be safer or more effective than the less expensive, older medications that they’ve apparently replaced.

“Atypical agents were once thought to be safer and possibly more effective,” says study researcher G. Caleb Alexander, MD, an assistant professor in the department of medicine at the University of Chicago Hospitals. “And what we’ve learned over time is that they are not safer, and in the settings where there’s the best scientific evidence, they are no more effective.” [...]

Friday, January 7, 2011

Games versus the real world

An old time lawyer was recently asked about his career satisfaction. "I used to love law. I knew all the rules of the game and which judge to use which argument with. It was really great. But now I don't like it. Many women have entered the field and they don't know that it is a game.They really take things seriously as if they were dealing with reality instead of a game. It isn't fun anymore."

This is an important model - which I plan to expand.

'Mother,' 'Father' Changing to 'Parent One,' 'Parent Two' on Passport Applications

Fox News

The words “mother” and “father” will be removed from U.S. passport applications and replaced with gender neutral terminology, the State Department says.

“The words in the old form were ‘mother’ and ‘father,’” said Brenda Sprague, deputy assistant Secretary of State for Passport Services. "They are now ‘parent one’ and ‘parent two.’"

A statement on the State Department website noted: “These improvements are being made to provide a gender neutral description of a child’s parents and in recognition of different types of families.” The statement didn't note if it was for child applications only. [...]

Study Linking Vaccines to Autism Is "Fraudulent"

Time Magazine

It's unfortunate but true that sometimes the hard facts of science don't turn out to be so grounded in reality after all. Scientific fraud is certainly not new, but manipulation of medical data is always troubling, and potentially deadly, for the public.

That's the case with a controversial 1998 paper published in the Lancet by Andrew Wakefield, a former intestinal specialist at Royal Free Hospital in London. This week, the editors of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) penned a commentary calling the study “an elaborate fraud,” and accompanied the charge with an in-depth study exposing apparent manipulations of the data by Wakefield to bolster his argument that the mumps, measles and rubella vaccine was linked to autism [...]

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The dangers of Philosophy & the issue of transcendance & immanence of G-d

Rabbi Micha Berger wrote this comment to a previous post regarding th dangers of philosophy - It contains important issues

Notice that the author (and I also heard the true author is unknown) in this middah isn't rejecting Scholasticism or Greek philosophy, but the entire enterprise of seeking machshavah amuqah -- deep understanding [of theology].

This is an old problem: there is a dialectic between whether we view Hashem as Immanent ("Hashem is here, Hashem is there") or Transcendent ("Just one Hashem in heaven"). The more one studies /about/ G-d, the more one gets involved the the Transcendent perception of the Almighty.

The Rambam had no problem -- to him, a Personal G-d is simply a concept for the masses, and the intelligentsia should only relate to the Transcendent notion.

Rav Nachman miBreslov took the opposite approach -- having a personal relationship with G-d is so important, one simply should avoid studying theology.

Briskers don't have this problem either, they don't study aggadita altogether. (I'm exagerating, but not much.) The whole question isn't really in their worldview -- just go learn more halakhah!

Lub takes a mystical way out, involving the notion of a particular person having a soul that comes from the nation's soul's Yechidah. In other words, this rebbe (Moshe, Yehoshua, ... Yiftach, ... Shemu'el ... David ... Rav Yehudah haNasi ... Rav Ashi ... and so on to the Besh"t and the Lubavitcher Rabbeim) has a soul from the level at which Israel, G-d and the Torah are one.

Therefore, their Torah unifies.

And that's why Lub teaches Tanya to newcomers. From within Chabad thought, Tanya is the only philosophical approach that enhances rather than distracts from the notion of a personal relationship with the Almighty.

Mussar taught a different "out", based on its tenet (as well as psychology's) that there is a huge gap between what we know, and what we internalize. Machshavah amuqah is an intellectual pursuit; emunah peshutah is a middah. They are inculcated through different routs. Yes, in theory the two conflict. In practice, man is very capable of living with such dialectics.

Rabbeinu Tam - the dangers of seeking truth through philosophy

from Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Rabbeinu Tam (Sefer Hayashor Shaar 6): Damage from learning non-Torah wisdom:  Tenth Midah -  Wisdom which is no good. There is wisdom which destroys faith for example external wisdom, heretical wisdom and philosophy. There is no need for one who serves G﷓d to be involved in them rather he should distance himself from them with all his strength. Because before he receives any benefit from them he will have lost his faith. It is like one who loses his possessions in the attempt to acquire other possessions and ends up having nothing. There are many who think they are wise who think this is an exalted wisdom and they think they will acquire profound and esoteric secrets – but they don’t realize they are going away from their faith. It is like a healthy person who accustoms himself to eating unhealthy foods because they taste good but he ends up destroying his health and complexion without realizing the changes. He considers himself healthy when in fact he is close to death. When a person associates with a heretic, he destroys his faith little by little without being aware. Similarly a person who studies philosophy becomes alienated from his faith little by little without being aware. While the intent and concern of philosophy is to understand the unity of G﷓d - but when you learn it you suffer a loss. Philosophy has words and axioms which from the very beginning weaken faith. No one can be certain that when he engages in its study that he won’t lose his faith – except if he has an expert and pious teacher that will guide him and protect from the places which weaken his faith. In such a case then he will be able to avoid the pitfalls of philosophy and accomplish the goals he desires. But if he reads books of philosophy on his own or has a teacher who is not completely pious – then there is no doubt that his faith will be destroyed and he will lose more than he gains. This is the general situation that stands before all those who fear G﷓d and therefore he has to be very careful.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Aristotle reached highest level possible without aid of prophecy

Rambam (Letter to Ibn Tibbon): Aristotle reached the highest level of intellect that man is capable of without the aid of the Divine influence which leads to prophecy for which there is no higher stage.

Religious teens who watch pornographic images are haunted by guilt & self-deprecation.

Another misrepresentation and misunderstanding of healthy basic decency


A new study performed by Bar-Ilan University has found that religious teens who are compelled to watch pornographic images are afterwards haunted by guilt and self-deprecation.

"You walk around with such an overwhelming sense of guilt in your gut, and you slowly start to hate yourself," one of the teens was quoted as saying.

 The research, which strives to depict the conflicting ways in which religious teens perceive sexuality, was presented at an international conference on "challenges in Jewish education" held at the university on Tuesday. [...]

Rabbi Dr. Tendler claims rabis don't have background to understand brain-stem death

Unfortunately a gross misrepresentation of the issues. It doesn't require a PhD in biology. He said the following:

“We underestimate the effort needed to understand the advances in biomedicine, people who are trained – doctors, etc. – have trouble keeping up with the field,” Tendler told The Jerusalem Post at the end of the conference. “Our rabbis enter the field at its most advanced stage, without the background necessary to understand it.

“The idea that greatness in Torah is adequate to make up with this deficit in education, is erroneous. Lo bashamaim hi – the Torah is down on the earth. Therefore, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein waited two years before he could answer the question [on whether brain-stem death qualifies as death],” Tendler said of his late father-in-law, the supreme rabbinic authority for Orthodox Jewry of North America and one of the greatest halachic adjudicators of the generation.[...]

Publicizing child molesters with an internet "Wall of Shame"


At first glance, Tnu Ligdol Besheket (Let them grow in quiet) looks like your average community website intent on fighting some local cause or another.

A quote from 16th-century British philosopher Francis Bacon pointing out that “knowledge is power” sits in a green-bordered box on the left-hand side of the home page, a short introduction highlights the goals of the site and a nearby menu offers up options such as “What does the law say?” and “Further links.”

Upon closer inspection, however, and after clicking on an almost comical menu option entitled “Wall of Shame,” a controversial page opens up a spread of more than 80 thumbnail photographs of gruff-looking men who have either been convicted or suspected of sex crimes against children. As the mouse hovers over each picture, the name of the man appears and another click leads to a brief explanation of his crime, when he was released from prison and where he lives.

“The argument is always that pedophiles need quiet and a chance to rehabilitate after they are released from prison, but we believe that it is the children that need quiet and should be protected, not the men,” says Debbie, one of the main people behind the website, which went live in November and has an accompanying Facebook group of the same name. [...]

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sexual harassment cases in Israel's civil service rose 40% in 2010


The number of sexual harassment cases among civil service employees rose 40 percent last year, according to the annual report released by the Civil Service Commission's disciplinary division.

Over the year, 125 sexual harassment files were opened compared with 90 the year before. As recently as three years ago, the annual figure was 65. Of the 125 cases filed last year, 20 were filed with the disciplinary court for civil service employees.

The executive director general of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, Michal Rozin, said highly publicized cases encourage victims of sexual harassment to file complaints. Such cases include the allegations of sexual misconduct against police commissioner candidate Uri Bar-Lev, and the trial and conviction of former President Moshe Katsav on rape and other charges. [...]

Immigrant Problem: Greece Plans Anti - Migrant Fence At Turkish Border


ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece plans a 12.5 km fence at its border with Turkey to prevent a wave of immigrants from flowing into the country, its public order minister said on Monday.

Asian and African migrants increasingly use the northern Greece Evros border with Turkey to reach the EU, after the bloc stepped up surveillance at its sea borders and Spain and Italy signed repatriation deals with African countries.

Last year, some 128,000 illegal immigrants crossed into Greece, more than 40,000 of them at the Evros border post, Citizen Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis said in a statement.

"This is the hard reality and we have an obligation to the Greek citizen to deal with it," Papoutsis said.

"In an effort to manage the inflow of illegal migrants, we are proceeding with the installation of means to deter illegal entries along a 12.5 km land border in Evros."[...]

Religious Divorce Dispute Leads to Secular Protest


This should have been a good New Year’s for Aharon Friedman, a 34-year-old tax counsel for the Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee. He spent time with his 3-year-old daughter, and could have been thinking about the influence he will have starting Wednesday, when his boss, Representative Dave Camp of Michigan, becomes chairman of the powerful tax-writing committee.

Instead, Mr. Friedman, an Orthodox Jew, finds himself scrutinized in the Jewish press, condemned by important rabbis, and attacked in a YouTube video showing about 200 people protesting outside his Silver Spring, Md., apartment on Dec. 19. They were angered by Mr. Friedman’s refusal to give his wife, Tamar Epstein, 27, a Jewish decree of divorce, known as a get. [...]