Monday, September 29, 2008

Comparisons

While certainly it would be interesting and worthwhile to think back through the year that has passed us, from everything that has happened to everything that has not, from the friends gained, to the ones who have faded away, to the ones who were tragically taken from us, I'm not going to do that here. (Maybe another time, for me.)

Instead, I noticed that most of what changes over the course of a year is in the little things, and that while some of those are nice, some are not, they do often point to the bigger differences in people's lives as they continue to move forward. A year ago at this time, we were preparing for a three-day Yom Tov, where we were putting up 37 guests over the four meals we would be home, five sleeping guests all around, and preparing for a hectic but amazing weekend despite each of us having full-time, set-time jobs that required us to be there in the days leading up to Rosh Hashana.

This year, both of us were home today. We were invited out for three of four meals, and while we made or are making some food for those meals, too, there is a lot less of that frenzy. We're still having six guests for the one meal we're home, but that's really simple for us at this point. That one difference is rather symbolic of some of the changes from last year to this one - whether from ourselves or external factors. I know for myself, it is certainly worthwhile to take a look back and compare it to now to see where my life has become more stable and where it's changed - both for better and for worse - and learning from all of it for the future.

From Serach, myself, and our girls, we'd like to wish everyone a k'siva v'chasima tova and a shana tova u'mesuka. May this coming year be one full of happiness, health, prosperity, and fulfillment. Chag Sameach!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Perfect VII


(Click on the picture to view it properly)

This license plate was seen while driving on a highway in New York. At first glance, it appeared to say "Carpe Diem" which, for those who don't know (or for those who have never seen Dead Poets' Society), means "Seize the Day" in Latin. This was what initially caught my eye about it, but it wasn't until I got closer that I saw what it really said. Carp8em. Huh?! Sounds boring at first, doesn't it? Until you say it out loud (go on, say it) and realize what it's actually saying. A carp actually ate "Them" (whoever "Them" is)!

I think we can take a lesson from this, especially at such an introspective time of year. We have many choices in life, but one of them undoubtedly is, will you seize the day? Or will you be eaten by a fish?

Best Lines From Shabbos, by Pobody

Serach: Now let's add some baking soda to the cookie batter.
Elianna: Ooh, baking Coke!



Shake: Hey Kayla! You're a hottie! Can I buy you a drink? Maybe some formula?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Paine's Cleveland "Crisis"...

...as I imagine it would have looked had Sir Thomas been bestowed the right and privilege of being one of the few, the proud, the perennially disappointed, The Browns Fan:

"September 23, 2008 -

THESE are the seasons that try Cleveland Browns fan's souls. The fantasy league soldier and the fair weather Patriot fan will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their team; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of both player and owner. The AFC North, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain in free agency, we esteem too highly: it is draft picks only that gives every team its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper defense upon the field of play; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as THE PLAYOFFS should not be highly rated. Pittsburgh, with what seems an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to the DIVISION) but "to EMBARRASS us in ALL GAMES WHATSOEVER" and if being embarrassed in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to Denver.

Whether the starting quarterback was declared too soon, or delayed too long, I will not now enter into as an argument; my own simple opinion is, that had it been eight months earlier, it would have been much better. We did not make a proper use of last winter, neither could we, while we were in a offensively productive state. However, the fault, if it were one, was all our own; we have none to blame but ourselves. But no great deal is lost yet. All that Romeo has been doing for this month past, is rather a ravage than a conquest, which the spirit of Paul Brown, a year ago, would have quickly repulsed, and which time and a little Bill Cowher will soon recover."

I Haven't Words...

...at the moment to comment on this post. Both because I am too stunned/awed/terrified by its content/position/attitude right now to respond cogently and because it IS just days before the Yemei Din and frankly I can't decide on which side of the ledger anything I might put together would end up falling (although I asssume the second barrier will pass before too long ...which is a good thing because who am I kidding here, I know exactly what side it will fall).

I simply present it for your examination: Voice From The Wilderness (aka FKM) on pictures of women in chareidi publications.

Who Shall Live

If you haven't seen it yet, this video is emotion- and thought-provoking in time for Rosh Hashana; I haven't seen a video circulate so fast and so furiously in a while. I think I've received or seen this video well over a dozen times in the last couple of days, and figured it would be good to post very close to the Yomim Naoraim (Days of Awe - 10 days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur).

It's called Who Shall Live. (My sister-in-law SIL, who sent it to me first, warns not to watch around kids.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Better Than Tyree

Sure, it wasn't the Super Bowl, but this catch by Edwin Baptiste from Morgan State against Winston-Salem State is ridiculous.

Agudah Takes A Cautious Step Forward

While Wolf and others are rightfully disappointed with the somewhat weak Jewish Press editorial on the subject of abuse, this VIN article about the Agudah's stance on certain new laws is very interesting.
“Our general sense is that we’re much better off when government leaves us alone,” said David Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America for government and public affairs. “But because of the sensitivity of this particular issue, I could see the possibility of our rabbis affirmatively encouraging schools to buy into the system, and even maybe affirmatively encouraging government to impose it on us.”
This is a nice step forward, but it is hard to know if this is merely bluster or an actual policy shift. Certain other comments of Zwiebel are less encouraging.

One regulation under consideration, he related, would institute a “roach motel” principle: Once a school chooses to opt in, it will not be allowed to opt out.

“I’m troubled by that,” he said. “It doesn’t sound like wise public policy.”

Another proposed rule would mandate that a school opting into the system must require every employee to be fingerprinted, without exception.

“I don’t understand that part of it,” he said. “It would allow us no discretion to [exempt], say, certain veterans about whom there have never been any questions from a criminal background check.”

Still, he said, “I’m not necessarily implying those two rules would push us away. I’d like to know exactly what the details are.”

It is unclear why any school would wish to "opt out", presuming the rules and standards were fair. Offhand, there seems to be nothing in the realm of abuse or reports to government (fingerprints of teachers, etc.) that would somehow be a specific issue that schools would wish to avoid presuming everything is on the up-and-up. Granted he is merely asking for details of this, but it seems reasonable.

The other issue he cites is far more troubling to hear. What exactly would be gained by "exempting" certain veterans? Why should any Rebbe or teacher - no matter how long they have been teaching - be excluded from this fingerprinting process? What reasoning would there be to do so - what discomfort is there? Schools often make across the board ("lo plug") rules about issues that are important, even understanding that the rule is not necessarily necessary for all; the same should be applied to this issue as well.

Let Me Stay

This poem was written by a friend of mine who wishes to remain anonymous.
Let Me Stay
Believe me when I say that I can't take another day
I want to go away
I do not want to stay
But I don't know where to go
I don't really want to go
I just don't know anything
I just can't see anything
There's a fence
In the way
And it won't
Let me stay
Let me stay
Please let me stay
I don't want to go away.
Feel free to add your thoughts.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

One Day, Two Day, Rain Day, Dew Day

Erachet was visiting us this evening, and brought up an interesting question. Her family lives here in the United States, but a number of years ago purchased an apartment in Israel as well. They will be traveling to Israel for Sukkos (Tabernacles), but returning before Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah. The question is how many days of Yom Tov will they keep in each place?

For most people, this would be a simple discussion. If they live in Israel, but merely are visiting the United States, then they would keep but one day of Yom Tov for Sukkos and one for Shemini Atzeres/Simchas Torah. If it were the reverse, they would keep two days each time. Erachet's family, however, actually owns the place they will be living in, and apparently will be keeping only one day while in Israel, but two days when they come back to the United States.

Erachet questioned this, finding it really odd: How could her family essentially change status in the middle of a holiday!? How could they keep one day for one half, and two for the next? Of course, we quickly noted that this wasn't quite the case - Sukkos and Shemini Atzeres, though closely connected, are not the same holiday. The family isn't changing in the middle of a holiday; they're merely keeping each holiday according to the place they are in.

A more interesting dilemma would be if her family would go to Israel for part of Pesach (Passover). Would they only have one seder, but then not have chometz for 8 days? Can someone change status during a Yom Tov from being considered a yosheiv Eretz Yisroel (someone who lives in Israel) to someone who resides outside the land, or vice versa? I think the question is a fascinating one, however rare it might be; I'm sure* there are poskim who hold that as their primary residence is outside, they are considered outside, while others might hold that owning land in Israel places them in the status of those who live there. I'm more concerned with what the ruling would be according to this opinion they seem to be following that it depends on where they are located, since they own land in each place - could they actually change their Halachic status within the same Yom Tov?!

This is likely far more common among Sephardim who follow R' Ovadia Yosef, who (IIRC) rules that a person must go by wherever they are whether they own land or not. This means that any Sephardi who travels in or out of Israel during Pesach should have this issue, though perhaps that is different because he rules based primarily on where the person is and not based on what status they fall under.

* I vaguely recall studying this in depth in a dorm room in Chofetz Chaim in Sanhedriya Murchevet on Sukkos one year - it's fascinating to read through all the opinions and their reasonings on the subject in general, though I don't recall reading about a person who owns land both in and out of the land and is traveling between the two.

Sears: From Impressive to Horrible to Eh

It's amazing how a company can go from one you hold in high esteem to one you are extremely disappointed with in an instant. We bought a new refrigerator from Sears (a Kenmore 16.5 cu. ft. Top Freezer Refrigerator Model #6472), which seems to be a really decent fridge for a good price. One of the especially good parts about buying from Sears was that it was on sale, delivery charges were reasonable, and in addition, they were offering to haul away the old one for just $10. This is obviously a huge deal for us, who would have much difficulty trying to bring in or take out a large refrigerator from a second floor apartment.

Three guys showed up to deliver the refrigerator as I quickly finished taking out all of the food. They were nice enough - they brought up the new fridge, then set out to take out the old one. They pulled, but it didn't move too easily, and they asked me to sign a waiver in case of damages since it was wedged between a wall and the counter. Before I even did this one of the workers said to the main deliveryman "we're out of here" and left with the other one. I signed the waiver immediately, and the one left pulled again - nothing doing. He said that it probably needs to be jacked up slightly and pulled out that way, but he couldn't do it, and he also left very quickly.

Before leaving, he said that if we could pull it out, they'll come right back to get it. I thought for a couple minutes, went out to my car, got my tire jack, jacked up the fridge, and slid it right out of the spot by myself. It took me about 5 minutes of work. We called the delivery guy immediately, and he called back a little while later to say that we had to call Sears and set it up. Annoying, but all right. We called, and they said they'll send someone out - but not for two days! They'd leave a soon to be smelly fridge in our kitchen for two days! This was not right.

After arguing with the representative for a short time, explaining that this was not right nor what was expected, and that to have a refrigerator that would soon start smelling taking up my kitchen - and growing plenty of bacteria, when I have two little girls - was simply not right, I was being stonewalled. I finally asked for a supervisor, and after trying to avoid transferring me, the rep put me on hold for a while. The supervisor merely repeated the same things - they "can't" send out a truck, though he admitted there were trucks available. I asked him to explain why they can't; they're a service provider, I'd paid for the service, and I wanted it done. He argued that they're still doing it, just two days later, which is ridiculous; he also argued that it "couldn't have been done" because it was stuck, even though I did it myself in a matter of minutes. He even refused to take responsibility for the deliveryman saying they'd come right back if we could get it out, claiming that they would in two days, and it's the same thing. He finally claimed that Sears - despite having trucks available! - is "unable to ever do special deliveries or pickups", something that I find to be completely unbelievable. I asked again why they couldn't come, and was told simply "We can't" - 'Why can't you?' - "We can't."

Finally, I asked to speak to his immediate supervisor. I always find it interesting how they will spend so much time on the phone trying to convince you there's nobody to talk to, they're the manager on the floor, then admit after pressing that there is actually someone above them. After another decent hold, a person picked up. I asked for her position: "Delivery Specialist." He had lied about hooking me up with his supervisor, but at least this person could do something, maybe. She was nice enough, and said that there simply was no way to send out any trucks today, as the drivers had already gone, but she'd at least get one for tomorrow, and gave us a $50 Sears Gift Card for the inconvenience. This was not fair - would you house a recently unplugged fridge in your kitchen for $50? - but she claimed that that was the highest she could authorize, and that they were unable to offer credits, so we took it.

All in all, Sears - whom we specifically used because of their supposed excellent customer service - was reasonably disappointing, though at least the fridge seems to be a good one. Now I just need to figure out who to write to about Unhelpful Supervisor Simon #24201.

Leah Larson's Wells Fargo Video

This is the video on Wells Fargo for Leah Larson. As noted in the previous post, this frum 17-year old girl from MA is the editor of Yaldah magazine and is a finalist in a Wells-Fargo contest. If she wins the $100,000 grand prize, she could do even more with the magazine which apparently is a big hit among young girls (it's geared to girls ages 8-14). You can vote for her here; she's running neck and neck with one of the other finalists for the grand prize. Good luck to her! Video on expand.

This Way, Please

A few worthwhile links:
  • How to spot an Apikorus by FrumSatire. Admittedly funny...
  • Baruch retires, and will be missed...
  • LoR has a nice video, great voice by this guy...
  • and JugglingFrogs reminded me of something a couple other people pointed out in the past week - the editor of Yaldah magazine, Leah (Emily) Larson, a frum 17-year old girl from MA, is a finalist in a Wells-Fargo contest. If she wins the $100,000 grand prize, she could do even more with the magazine which apparently is a big hit among young girls (it's geared to girls ages 8-14).
Also...

Hat tip: Special Ed

Google is both amazing and scary at the same time. They do everything you'd want a company to do - constantly improve every product, come up with new products on a consistent basis, make life easier and more efficient... etc. It's also scary because so much stuff is all in one place, and they have access to it all. Your e-mail? (GMail) Sure. Your documents? (Google Docs) Sure. Your pictures? (Picasa) Sure - and now tagged with faces, too. Your online searches? (Google) Sure. Heck, even this blog (Blogger) and my feeds (I'm switching from Sage - which is great - to Google Reader, which is even better) are on Google. If Google ever had any bad ideas and wanted to use your information maliciously, you'd be screwed. People are wary of allowing government access to information we all readily give to Google, Inc. It's a little scary.

Nevertheless, we all hope that they won't do any of those things, and we keep using their products, because they're just darned good. Google Maps [which now shows traffic and street views almost everywhere - Little Brother is watching youuu...] now even tells people how to get places using the NYC transit system, and it's actually accurate. For those of us still stuck here in New York, this is not only extremely useful to get around, but it makes it much easier to give people directions on how to get here for Shabbos and the like.

Tale of Two Sons

WestBankMama has a really interesting post up that is worthwhile to check out, about an old Arab friend named Mohammed. Excerpts:

The trust they had in him once led to an embarrassing event. My son came home from gan (kindergarden) one day and told me a story. It seems that in the middle of playing one of his friends handed M. a stick, and solemnly asked him to “fix” it for him. When M. asked the child how he wanted him to fix it, the child responded that he needed him to make the stick into a gun.

“Why do you need a gun?” M. asked.

The kid’s response could have been taken out of a Middle Eastern version of “Kids Say the Darndest Things”. Looking straight at M. he replied, “I need it to kill the Arabs!” ...

Although there were families on the yishuv who trusted M. completely, there were those who were furious that we let an Arab walk around freely, and thought it was a huge security risk. The rest of us were in the middle, swinging ambivalently between the need to protect ourselves and our children, and our desire to give M. the trust that he had earned.

In the end we didn’t need to make a decision about how to deal with M.

It was done for us.

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Here Comes The Split

This will certainly be interesting: (via Baruch)
A judge on the High Rabbinical Court who made headlines in recent months for casting doubt on the Jewishness of hundreds of converts called Wednesday on religious Zionist rabbis to recognize the primacy of haredi rabbinical leadership.

Sherman said the major Torah sages of this generation were Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv of Jerusalem and Rabbi Shmuel Halevi Vosner of Bnei Brak, and that religious Zionist rabbis were obliged to abide by their opinions.

Sherman said that even highly respected Sephardi rabbis such as former chief rabbis Ovadia Yosef and Mordechai Eliahu should defer to Elyashiv's halachic decisions regarding conversions.
Also:

In his lecture at Mosad Harav Kook Sherman pointed out that there were two opposing views in Jewish thought to converting non-Jews to Judaism. One approach sees conversion as a very positive act that should be encouraged because it brings people closer to the true monotheistic faith.

Sherman said the Talmud expresses a contradictory opinion that views converts as a plague because they introduce foreign influences into the Jewish people.

Sherman said that in the past 100 years with the rise of intermarriage and assimilation the second opinion had taken precedence among all the great rabbinical sages.

"In the modern era the great rabbis see converts as a potential danger to the spiritual purity of the Jewish people," he said.

J Street and Palin

Sarah Palin was invited to speak at the UN Rally against a Nuclear Iran today. Unfortunatly, J Street felt that her presence there would turnt the rally into a partisan event. Under some pressure, the organizers had to rescind the invitation.

Now, had the organizers, The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations had instead only a liberal guest, (which is no big deal) would J-Street protested them making the rally into a partisan event? I mean, aren't THEY the ones now making it into a partisan event? Couldn't this rally, even if they disagree with her on major issues been a time when people can come together? Go figure these people.

What I've Learned from Running for Chai Lifeline

1. The sneaker is right: just do it. Rain or shine or sleet or hail... my resolve hasn't been tested by these yet, actually, but it is pretty dark and chilly at 6 am. But if you want to run a marathon, you got to run. And in everything else in life. The only way to achieve is to do.

2. Only three types of people are up and about at 6 am: 1. Joggers 2. People walking dogs 3. Men going to morning minyan. From this I've learned that man will do some pretty crazy things for his best friend, and I should hold them as a model for my own dedication to my own family and friends. It is heartening to know, at least, that the average Jewish man is at least as dedicated to God as the average non-Jewish man is to his dog.

3. You won't get anywhere by taking it easy. You need to push yourself to make progress, and oddly enough, the other side of exhaustion feels about the same as the near side. But you'd never know that unless you visit.

Inertia is your enemy: once you stop, it is hard to restart. But once you're going, it takes less energy to just stretch your legs out and really pick up the pace. Once you're putting in the effort, why not put in just a drop more and do a good job of it?

4. ...but then again, you need to know your limits. Marathon running is about pacing yourself. Runners alternate between a faster pace and slower jog. Or, if you're a novice like me, you alternate between jogging and brisk walking. If you overextend yourself, you'll just wind up keeled over gasping for breath and wondering why you've taken on such an impossible task. You want to run a marathon, but you don't want to end it like the original marathon runner.

5. Speaking of the original marathon runner, there's a fellow we can all learn from. Whodathunk that one day millions of people per year would get together in cities around the world to run 26 miles just because some nameless Greek soldier did it thousands of years ago? If you put your heart and soul into something and really believe in it, people will remember you for it. If they don't run a race for you, at least they might give you a footnote in a history book.

And now a message from our sponsor, God, (who sent me a complimentary pair of Nikes): If you haven't yet submitted your proposal for personal improvement for the coming year, please do so before deadline next week Tuesday. He would like to remind you that repentance, prayer, and charity should all be represented in a successful proposal, and that Chai Lifeline happens to be on the shortlist of approved charities. You can donate by following this link and sponsoring my run.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bloggdacity of Hope...

...members of the blogosphere, please come to order. All rise as the presenter of our closing address steps to the fore.

:::APPLAUSE::APPLAUSE::
::KEY TAPS::KEY TAPS::
::MOUSE CLICKS::MOUSE CLICKS::

Thank you so much…Thank you very much…Thank you, everybody.

To Chairman Ezzie and my great friend Noy G, and to all my fellow posters of this great medium, with profound gratitude and limited humility, I accept your nomination for presidency of the J-Blogosphere. Let me express my thanks to the historic slate of candidates who accompanied me on this journey, and especially the one who traveled the farthest, a champion for working bloggers and an inspiration to my daughters and to yours, (enter favorite female blogger here).

To President Bear, to President Dov Bear, who made last night the case for change as only he can make it...to XGH, who embodies the spirit of service...and to the next vice president of the J-Blogosphere, myself, I thank you. (That’s right, I’m my own running mate, how’s THAT for outside-the-box…besides, the last thing I need is another voice in my head.) I am grateful to finish this journey with one of the finest posters of our time, a man at ease with everyone from social commentator blogs to the posters on the sports blogs he still checks at home every night. (That’s right again, I’m talking about myself as my own running mate in what I can only figure is like the fourth person.) To the love of my life, our next first lady, ******* ***** [password protected]... and to LeBron and Braylon and Fausto, I love you so much, and I am so proud of you.

Some months ago, I stood before you and told you my story, of the brief conversation between a young man from the mid-west and another young man from the mid-west (now exiled on the eastern seaboard in a city we shall not defile this convention my mentioning) who weren't well-off or well-known, but shared a belief that in the Internets they could achieve whatever they put his blog to. [That actually isn’t true at all. A)My story has never been told in these parts, nor will it if certain people know what’s good for them B) I’m still not really sure if anything can be “achieved” around here…but I digress…]

It is that promise that's always set this sphere apart, that through hard work and sacrifice each of us can pursue our individual blogs, but still come together as one J-Blogosphere family (THAT’S RIGHT I SAID FAMILY, YOU HEAR ME GIL…FA-MI-LY!...THAT’S EVEN MORE THAN A COMMUNITY, DEAL WITH IT!!!), to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams, as well. That's why I stand here tonight. Because for 232 years (after all, what is that document in Washington if not just one long blog posting), at each moment when that promise was in jeopardy, ordinary men and women – left wing and right wing, more religious and less religious, older and younger -- found the courage to keep it alive. ::tear::

We meet at one of those defining moments, a moment when our sphere is at war, our convention is in turmoil, and the Blogging promise has been threatened once more. Tonight, more bloggers are out of posts and more are posting harder for less site traffic. More of you have lost your blogs and even more are watching your SiteMeter values plummet. More of you have cars you can't afford to drive, credit cards, bills you can't afford to pay, and tuition that's beyond your reach (wait a second…that’s from last week’s Orthonomics post, how did that get in here?).

These challenges are not all of the J-Blogosphere’s making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of the failed policies of the current administration. My fellow posters, we are better than these last few years. We are better than this. (At least I think we are, truth is perhaps we are not and this is just who we are… could be… could be.) This sphere is more decent than one where a blogger in Ohio, one on the brink of retirement, find themselves one virus away from disaster after a lifetime (or more likely a few bored months) of hard work (or time filling, whatever). We're a better sphere than one where a man in California has to pack up the blog that he's worked on for 2 long months and watch as it's shipped off to the ether, and then chokes up as he explains how he felt like a failure when he went home to tell his family the news (this is the story as it was relayed to me… hey, I don’t claim to understand all you people out there). We are more compassionate than a medium that lets veterans sleep on our streets (as it were, anybody got a good blog terminology for ‘streets’?) and URLs slide into anonymity... that sits on its hands while a major J-Blogospherian entity drowns before our eyes. Tonight, tonight, I say to the people of the J-Blogosphere, to those who walk the party line wherever it may lead and independent thinkers across this great internet: Enough.

This moment, this election is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the Blogging promise alive. Because next week, in another post, the same party that brought you two terms of the current administration will ask this populace for a third. And we are here -- we are here because we love this sphere too much to let the next few years look just like the last few. On November 4th, we must sit up and type: A few is enough! (Yeah, I know…no wonder they didn’t call the show that.)

Now, now, let there be no doubt. My opponent, has worn the ‘uniform’ of our sphere with bravery and distinction, and for that we owe him our gratitude and our respect. (We also ask him to kindly change his clothes, eat a proper meal and for the love of all that is good and pure in this world to take a shower.) And next week, we'll also hear about those occasions when he's broken with his party as evidence that he can deliver the posts that we need. But the record's clear: It doesn’t matter because he isn’t one of us and we don’t like him! I don't know about you, but I am not ready to go along with somebody who isn’t one of us and who we don’t like!

And when one of his chief advisers, the man who wrote his “Eilay” post, was talking about the anxieties that J-Bloggers are feeling, he said that we were just suffering from a postal recession and that we've become, and I quote, "a community of whiners." A community of whiners? Tell that to the proud bloggers of our most successful carnival who, after they found out it was closing, kept showing up every month and working as hard as ever, because they knew there were people who counted on the links that they provided. Tell that to the site owners who shoulder their burdens silently as they watch their guest posters leave for their third, or fourth, or fifth tour of college or yeshiva. These are not whiners. They work hard, and they give back, and they keep going without complaint. These are the J-Bloggers I know.

Now, I don't believe that my opponent doesn't care what's going on in the lives of J-Bloggers (I shudder to think what such a person places above blogging on his ‘important’ list…honestly!); I just think he doesn't know. It's not because he doesn't care; it's because he just doesn't get it. (For shame…for shaaaaaaaaame) For over two years -- for over two years!, he's subscribed to that old, discredited philosophy: Give more and more site visits to those with the most and hope that blog traffic trickles down to everyone else. (For the un-initiated this is known as ‘clickle down bloggonomics’.) In some corners of the J-Blogosphere, they call this the "Linking Society," but what it really means is that you're on your own. Out of ideas? Tough luck, you're on your own. No interesting posts? The market will fix it. You're on your own. Born boring? Pull yourself up by your own creativity, even if you don't have any creativity. You are on your own. Well, it's time for them to own their failure. It's time for us to change the J-Blogosphere. And that's why I'm running for president of the J-Blogosphere.

We measure the strength of our sphere not by the number of hundred comment posts we have or the profits of the most successful, but by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new blog, or whether the student who lives on hat-tips can take a day off, a blogosphere that honors the dignity of commenting.The fundamentals we use to measure blogging strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this concept great, a promise that is the only reason I am posting here tonight. What -- what is that promise? It's a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own blogs what we will, but that we also have obligations to treat each other with dignity and respect. (Check me out channeling my inner Bogner!) It's a promise that says the J-Blogosphere should reward drive and innovation and generate growth, but that blog owners should live up to their responsibilities to create controversy where none exists, to look out for their own personal agendas, and play by the rules of their own definition of fair play and honesty. Our blogosphere should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us (although a little discomfort here and there never killed anybody). It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most talent and influence, but for every blogger who's willing to work. That's the promise of the J-Blogosphere, the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation, the fundamental belief that I am my brother blogger’s keeper, I am my sister blogger’s keeper (however, if I were a sister blogger I wouldn’t be betting my tuition money on assistance from the Y-chromosome crowd… Ezzie excluded… after all, THAT'S NOT TZNIUS!).

That's the sh’vua we need to keep. That's the change we need right now. J-Bloggers, we cannot click ‘go-back’... not with so much work to be done; not with so many children to educate (the kids dammit, what about the kids?!), and so many veterans to care for (this is an interesting question actually…what constitutes a blogging vet: time frame, no. of posts, popularity, impact??) ; not with an economy to fix (I want to make dollars off of this for crying out loud! Bring in some kessef, the moolah, some coin, a little scratch, a bit of dough, some cheddar, some lettuce, a little of the g-old…I’d like to get paid is what I’m saying), and farms to save (just seeing if everyone is paying attention) and so many lives to mend. J-Bloggers, we cannot click ‘go-back’. We cannot type alone.

Thank you. G-d bless you. And G-d bless the J-Blogosphere of America.

Mommy! There's a Monstera on my Plate!

Consider, my friends, the monstera fruit. Yeah, I know. With a name like monstera deliciosa, you gotta believe that it’s either some weird result of a genetics lab experiment, or it was discovered by a botanist with a bizarre sense of humor.

Let’s start with the tree it grows on. It doesn’t. The monstera plant is a bit creepy. Unlike most sensible plants, it grows toward the dark. Then when it finds the source of the shade (generally a tree), it changes tack and starts climbing it toward the light.

If the monstera vine sounds like something you’d never see outside of darkest Africa, or maybe Brazil, wrong. It happens to be native to Panama, but you can find it much closer to home. Next time you’re dating in a hotel lobby, check out the flora. According to the holy grail of accuracy, Wikipedia, monstera plants are popular in hotels because of their thick, luxurious foliage. But without real sunlight, the monstera won’t put out any of its fruit – which is ok, because that would probably scare the guests away, or at least give the daters something to talk about.

The monstera fruit looks like a banana coated in green pineapple-style scales. Like all monsters, it has its teeth: if you try to eat the monstera before it’s ripe, the oxalic acid it contains will burn your throat and poison you. Which could be uncomfortable.

The monstera is ready to be eaten when it starts to shed it scales. Quite frankly, it’s gross. The dusty green scales just pop off and fall all over, leaving smudges on the exposed banana-colored flesh underneath. Under each hexagonal scale is a hexagonal division of fruit. They’re packed closely together, keeping the banana appearance, but when you bite into it, they come off more like corn-on-the-cob. The consistency is a cross between pineapple and banana. The flavor isn’t bad, at first. It has a pineapple tartness and banana creaminess, but there’s also a spiciness (oxalic acid?) and a heaviness that make you slow down and wonder if it really tasted good at first or if you imagined it.

Fairly decent in small doses; serve the hexagons off the cob, and don't show the guests the monster until after they've swallowed.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

One Last Curtain Call

One Last Curtain Call
Aryeh Love
Likely before midnight tonight, the last single will be hit at Yankee Stadium. The last home run will sail over the wall. The last fly ball, the last ground ball, the last strikeout. Someone will hit the final foul ball into the upper deck, someone will be the last to cross home plate. And in about 4 hours, give or take, the final pitch will be thrown from the Yankee Stadium mound. When that last out is caught it will symbolize the end of an era. Not just for a franchise, not just for a city. It will be the end for a sport and for a country.

Critics have said that it is unfortunate that the 2008 Yankees won’t give the Stadium a proper October sendoff. I disagree. If the last game at the Stadium had been played in October, the game would be about the team. It would be about the Yankees’ quest for a 27th championship and its success of failure. Instead, tonight’s game will be about the stadium. It will be about everyone who saw their first baseball game at the House that Ruth Built. It will be about the legends who roamed the field. It will be about the ghosts of the 26 championships already won. Tonight’s game will be about the past, not the present.


Critics have said that the current Yankee Stadium hasn’t been the same since the renovations in the mid-70’s. I disagree. Would anybody say the same about a Wrigley Field that now has lights installed for night games? What about a Fenway Park with seats above the Green Monster? Is the Stadium exactly the same as it was in 1923 when it opened? Of course not, but is anything that old the same? Besides, the pieces likely change from game to game and season to season. The home plate used tonight won’t be the same one Reggie stepped on 3 times in 1977. The pitching rubber used in Don Larsen’s prefect game is long gone. Derek Jeter will play between two bases that Phil Rizzutto never saw. The pieces may be different, but the whole remains the same.


Critics have said that it is ridiculous for the Yankees to close Yankee Stadium. “How can you shut down a place with that much history?” they have said. “The ghosts of Yankee Stadium won’t move across the street with the team” they have complained. “How can you close down an American icon?” Again, I disagree. The closing of Yankee Stadium will allow a new generation to make new history, to welcome new ghosts, and to create a new American icon. We won’t have Babe Ruth’s record setting home run numbers of the 20’s and 30’s. Instead we’ll witness the record setting numbers of Alex Rodriguez. We won’t get to see Lou Gehrig rapping base hits through the infield, but we’ll likely see Derek Jeter become the first Yankee to join the 3,000 hit club. (Dave Winfield, Wade Boggs, Paul Waner and Rickey Henderson all wore pinstripes, but none had 3,000 hits as a Yankee). We may even see Mike Mussina become the last 300 game winner in baseball history and Mariano Rivera become the all time career saves leader if they both last long enough in pinstripes to do so. While we’ll no longer have the field where so many people took in their first baseball game (myself included), we’ll have a new field to take our kids to their first baseball game.


While critics may voice opposition about the future plan, tonight’s game is not about the future. While tonight may be the night the Yankees are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, tonight’s game is not about the present. Tonight’s game is about Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, a streak unlikely to ever be broken. It’s about Babe Ruth’s 60 home run season, an unheard of number in 1927. It’s about Reggie’s 3 home run game in the ’77 World Series. It’s about Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech. It’s about Aaron Boone’s shot in 2003. It’s about the countless historic baseball moments that took place at Yankee Stadium, not to mention the non-baseball moments the Stadium hosted.


One of the non-baseball related moments that people have written about is the night President George Bush threw out the first pitch of Game 3 in the 2001 World Series. It was our (America’s) way of telling our enemies that you may have destroyed our buildings, but you didn’t destroy our spirit, our will, or our way of life. The President could have thrown out the first pitch of Game 1 in Phoenix to open the 2001 World Series. Chase Field in Arizona would likely have been less of a target than Yankee Stadium would have been. But Bush knew that if he wanted the statement to have the right impact, it had to be in New York. It had to be in the same city that was attacked just a few weeks earlier. It had to be in the same city that saw its buildings fall, and, as Bush put it on this year’s 9/11, its Heroes rise. It had to be in the capital of American Baseball, in its Cathedral, in Yankee Stadium.


That ceremonial first pitch was a message to the world. While things may be different, things are still very much the same. Similarly, when the first pitch is thrown at the new Yankee Stadium it will be a be a message to the Yankee world as well as the entire baseball world that while the surroundings may be different, things will still be very much the same. The Yankees will begin a 9th quest for their 27th world championship, the same quest they have been on for the last 8 years. The pinstripes will be the same, the players will be the same (some of them at least), the short right field porch will be the same. But like I said, tonight isn’t about the future, nor is it about the team. It’s about the Stadium and about the past.


Maybe something extra special will happen tonight. Maybe Andy Pettite throws a perfect game, Alex Rodriguez hits 5 home runs, or Derek Jeter wins it in the bottom of the 9th, keeping the Yankees mathematically alive and by some miracle they make the playoffs. But in all likelihood, tonight’s game will be like most of the other 6,500 plus games played there. When the last out of tonight’s game nestles into someone’s glove, the 55,000 plus fans will give the Stadium its’ first, and last, standing ovation. Likely to be standing for a lot of the game already, there will no full seats after that last catch as every person in the ballpark will rise and finally give the Stadium its due. They will cheer for the pitcher’s mound where Larsen threw the only perfect game in World Series history. They’ll cheer for the infield dirt where Gehrig played most of his 2,130 consecutive games. They’ll cheer the outfield grass where Mantle, DiMaggio and Ruth once roamed. They’ll cheer home plate, behind which Yogi Berra won 10 World Series rings. They’ll call out all the ghosts of Yankee Stadium for one last curtain call. And then they’ll ask for another. And another…… And another…

Friday, September 19, 2008

Worthy

A few worthwhile reads:
  • What to Know About Sexual Abuse (Jewish Week) [via Gil]
  • The only reasonably accurate and concise/clear explanation of the current market craziness that I've seen. (Freakonomics)
  • One of the money quotes from the New York Times yesterday, claiming the Morgan Stanley CEO told the CitiGroup CEO that they needed a partner or they were toast, that helped drive down the market? Oh, whoops, says the Times. Wasn't true. (DealBreaker)
Fun week.

Politics, Stupidity, & Hilarity

Daled Amos over at Soccer Dad has the full details on the fallout around the protests against Iran and Ahmadenijad since Hillary Clinton dropped out because Sarah Palin was coming. Essentially, the hosts decided to then dis-invite Palin, but to do so had to tell every politician not to come, while McCain/Palin had asked Barack Obama or Joe Biden to come to "even it out", but were turned down.

Essentially, all of these political games, starting with the Clinton pull out, have turned the protest into a dumb fight over politics and absolutely nothing substantial against Ahmadenijad. Interestingly, in the short-term this will probably reflect poorly on the Democratic Party and Obama, but will not have a long-term effect on Clinton herself; as [Serach's uncle] David Luchins notes in an interesting piece in the Forward (via Gil), Jewish voters tend to reward those with records of votes in our favor. Clinton has enough of those to woo back any supporters she's losing should she run for President in 2012 should she wish to do so. This means that Clinton could have effectively skewered Obama while avoiding any appearances with Sarah Palin.

And we all know that that's something she wants...



(I meant to use the last post on this subject to put this up, but forgot. Thanks to SuperRaizy for posting it and reminding me. This is the Saturday Night Live skit starring Tina Fey as Sarah Palin doing a press conference with Hillary Clinton. SNL's funniest stuff tends to be their political skits, no matter what your views are.)

Oh, and a great line about the issue that I read:
Obama wants to meet unconditionally with Ahmadinejad, but the Democrats won't attend a rally with Sarah Palin. Now they understand how a public meeting can legitimize their adversary.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Struggling With Low Self-Esteem

TorahWeb posted something recently that I've been planning on posting about for a bit; it is an essay and audio or video interview with R' Dr. Abraham J. Twerski about his struggle with low self-esteem. I think it's an important issue, and the essay is excellent (readers of his books will recognize it). I'm only partway through the video, but R' Dr. Twerski is clear and easy to listen to.

When I was in Israel, while in a rough stretch, I found that I gained a tremendous amount by reading a few of his books, particularly the ones that utilized Peanuts characters to present a message. I was able to internalize those ideas by relating the examples and messages to myself, and I have been a very different - and much better, happier, and healthier - person ever since. For those who know me, or in particular knew me then, they are probably well aware of the differences between myself coming out of high school and after that period of time in Israel.

Of course, if anyone has a serious psychological or emotional issue, they should seek professional help. Not all people nor all situations are meant to be handled by one's self.

Open Letter to the Jewish Press

The following letter was written in coordination with a number of other J-bloggers in the hopes that the message can be disseminated as far and as quickly as possible in a joint campaign against hiding abuse in our communities, and reversing the culture of fear that kannoim have been allowed to engage in for years now. We ask that people take a few seconds and copy and send this letter or another letter on the subject to the editors of the Jewish Press in the hopes that this will show the importance of the issue to the public. This is an issue that cannot be avoided or shoved under the rug, and the threats of individuals cannot be allowed to hold sway over our communities. Please take a few seconds and send a letter to the Jewish Press at letters@jewishpress.com. Thank you!
To the Editorial Board of the Jewish Press:

We would like to express our horror at the intimidation and harassment of Dr. Benzion Twerski for his efforts to protect our children from molestation, and we salute you for your courage in publishing the Op-Ed column condemning the harassment of Dr. Twerski. We feel that exposing the actions of the kannoim is the first step in reversing their campaign of terror against members of our community.

We are fed up with the fact that the extremists in our community are allowed to threaten peaceful citizens with threats and we would like to see our police officers arrest and prosecute those who do so to the fullest extent of the law.

If there are any acts of intimidation or threats to Dov Hikind's next appointee to the Child Safety committee; we will join and support a massive email drive to our elected officials – on the local, state and federal levels – to step in and protect those who are helping protect our children.

We respectfully ask you to run an editorial next week condemning this disgraceful act, acknowledging the number of these emails that were sent to you and calling on our leaders and rabbonim to publicly distance themselves from acts of intimidation and violence each and every time they occur with the same fervor reserved for other actions that contradict our holy Torah – and to declare the acts of violence as the sins they are.

Respectfully submitted,

Ezzie Goldish (SerandEz)

P.S. Please note that this e-mail was a joint letter composed by numerous members of the community in a coordinated effort.

Any Given יו״כ...

...I don't know about you, but I think Al Pacino would have made one world-class Mashgiach Ruchani:

Original from Any Given Sunday

I don’t know what to say, really. Three weeks till the biggest day of our personal lives all comes down to today. Now either we heal as an Am or we’re gonna crumble, inch by inch, day by day, 'til we’re finished.

We’re in hell right now, ladies and gentlemen, believe me. And, we can stay here -- get the stuffing kicked out of us -- or we can fight our way back into the light. We can climb outta hell, one inch at a time.

Now, I can’t do it for you. It doesn’t work that way. I look around. I see so many young faces, and I think -- I mean – we’ve made every wrong choice a community can make. We, uh, we’ve pissed away all our money, believe it or not. We’re chasing off anyone who’s ever loved us. And lately, I can’t even stand the state of affairs I see out the window.

You know, when you get old in life things get taken from you. I mean that's...part of life. But, you only learn that when you start losing stuff. You find out life’s this game of opportunities. So is Yom Kippur. Because in either one, life or the Yom HaDin, the margin for error is so small -- I mean one-half a step too late, or too early, and you don’t quite make it. One-half second too slow, too fast, you don’t quite grasp it.

The opportunities we need are everywhere around us.
They’re in every break of the game, so to speak - every minute, every second.


On this day, we reach for that opportunity. On this day, we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces during those tefillos. We claw with our fingernails for those opportunities, because we know when we add up all those tefillos that’s gonna make the difference between success and failure! Between livin' and dyin'!

I’ll tell you this: On any yom tefillah, it’s the one who’s willing to admit who’s gonna maximize those opportunities. And I know if I’m gonna have any life anymore, it’s because I’m still willin' to be honest with myself and with God. Because that’s what livin' is! The six Tefillos* in front of your face!!

Now I can’t make you do it. You got to look at the person next to you. Look into their eyes! Now I think you’re gonna see someone who will go there with you. You're gonna see a person who will sacrifice themselves for this community because they know, when it comes down to it, you’re gonna do the same for them!

That’s an Am, ladies and gentleman!

And, either we heal, now, as an Am, or we will die as individuals.

That’s Yom Kippur guys.

That's all it is.

Now, what are you gonna do?

*mincha, maariv, shacharis, mussaf, mincha, neilah

Trials & Tribulations... and Turnarounds?

A few worthwhile reads about the difficulties in the Orthodox Jewish world... (excerpts on expand)
  • BeyondBT has a sharp post detailing one of the trickiest situations for the average frum Jew who has relatives who are not religious: Teenagers.
    I worry when the “other side” starts looking attractive, and our way of life seems to be making them “miss out.” (Yes, of course we can give the speeches to our children about how the secular kids are really the ones missing out, but hey, kids are normal, and some freedoms in life look very delicious at times to them).
  • A guest at Orthonomics discusses economics... and family planning.
    the number one issue couples fight about are finances. More and more couples are faced with doing something they never imagined when they first got married, not having more children in exchange for not fighting about finances. Many young couples are reaching out to their rabbonim to discuss heterim that are available to them.
  • An Eruv is completed in Boulder, CO, a cause of celebration for the community there... but the comments bring out the greatest in anti-Semitism and anti-religion in general. Quite troubling. However, the pictures will make you smile wide, so check them out - amazingly cute kids and great photography.
  • I appreciated this message Neal posted about prayer. Has plenty of applicability in life.
  • WebAds' Stephen Leavitt has a good article in the JPost on J-blogging and the recent convention.
    There is certainly no better way to refine your arguments and positions than by tempering them in the fire of opposing views. Simultaneously, there is no harsher way to find out that your opinions and theories are wrong and indefensible than to have them unmercifully torn apart one by one. ...

    Blogging isn't about beating someone over the head with your soapbox to win an argument. Blogging is about dialogues that engage interest and introduce ideas to create changes over time.

    Simply put, Jewish blogging is about creating dialogue to help lead Judaism into a healthy and vibrant future.

  • Finally, an interesting piece in the WSJ: Thinking Outside the Lox, about the recent surge of Jews becoming Republicans over the past decade or so.
Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Warning: This is Not a Toy

Have you ever hosted the sort of holiday guests you wished would go away and never come back? This Rosh Hashana, you can drive them away with a simple, Southeast Asian shehecheyanu fruit: the durian mornthong (alt sp: monthong).

Only minutes after you slice this fresh delicacy open, your guests will exit your home through the nearest aperture with astonishing rapidity. The only downside to this strategy is that you may be tempted to follow them yourself.

A small expedition that included bored bloggers Scraps and Bad4 headed into Chinatown looking for something interesting to eat and came out with, among other things, this rare and virtually unknown fruit. As far as entertainment went, it got five stars. The gastronomic experience, though... We'll get to that.

The durian mornthong looks a bit like a horse chestnut the size of a human head but is about half as heavy (as a head) at 4 - 8 pounds. Unbelievably, they grow on full-sized trees. The exact fatality rate for people who nap in their shade is unknown.

It is also unknown (to us) if the Chinese really eat them, or if they just hang them up outside their grocery stores in Chinatown to lure curious Americans so they can tout the fruit’s sweet, delicate taste, and then collapse behind the counter in a hysterical fit of giggles when the tourist walks off with 7 pounds of mornthong at $1.20 a pound. (We pretty much did that.)

Once a durian mornthong is purchased, good luck getting it home. Durian mornthongs do not cuddle well, being covered in sharp woody spikes. Handling can be difficult for those who aren’t used to sleeping on a bed of nails. Purveyors customarily tip it into a regular shopping bag, after which it is the customer's problem. People who have purchased durian mornthongs are easily discerned from the crowd by their pained expression every time the bag bumps their leg and gouges little holes through their clothes. Which is about every other step.

Like many prickly personalities, the durian mornthong is all softness inside. Cut open, it looks rather like a brain in a skull – not a regular brain, but more like the “this is your brain on drugs” kind of brain. The flesh has a scrambled-eggs coloring and a scrambled eggs appearance when disturbed.

Each “lobe” of the durian mornthong “brain” is a delicately membraned sac of thick, pale yellow cream—rather like a large egg yolk—around a smooth, brown seed. The seed actually looks a lot like a chestnut, so maybe a durian mornthong is what happens when a chestnut tree takes steroids. The cream has been compared to custard, a comparison that is exceedingly apt. The flesh of the durian is exactly like custard, except that custard is less slimy, less smelly, and goes down much more easily.

The fruit’s odor is not immediately apparent. It kind of sneaks up on you and then won’t leave. Most people stick their nose into the shell, sniff, and say “I don’t smell anything… wait, maybe there’s something?” Then they sniff again and say, “Yes there is, but it’s not so bad… ooh wait - maybe it is!” The scent is pungent and penetrating. Three shopping bags cannot mask its unique and flavorful scent, which fills the room and creeps beyond at a dismaying rate. If you ever wanted to know how the malodorous homeless feel when everyone crowds to the other end of the subway car, take an opened durian mornthong onto the train. In many parts of Southeast Asia, durians are officially banned from public places.

If the fruit is opened carefully, you can remove a whole sac and, theoretically, suck the thick cream out of it at your leisure. Theoretically because we couldn’t find anyone to try it. All in our expedition were quite happy with a small taste and preferred not to lick their fingers clean. It’s not because it isn’t a sweet fruit – it is. But, as a Younger Sister declared, taking her second knifeful, “It doesn’t taste so bad at all. It’s just the smell and the consistency that sort of… oh, eugh. Quick – pretzels!” Let’s just say it gets overwhelming fast.

In our professional opinion, the durian monthong has about four really practical uses, none of which involve the human digestive system except the last.

  1. Food fights. The gooey filling, conveniently packed in easily hurled, explode-on-impact sacs with a hidden, hard-hitting seed will have the opposition diving for cover. If you’re really going in for the kill, you can throw the shell after.

  2. Sophomoric entertainment. These would make ideal stink bombs. Alternatively, drop it from a 4th story and watch passersby wonder if someone had an unsuccessful pancreas transplant on the sidewalk.

  3. Self defense. Nothing makes a girl doing late-night subway traveling feel safer than having 5 pounds of morningstar in a thin plastic bag, ready to swing.

  4. Geneva-sanctioned torture. The Geneva Convention neglected to outlaw force-feeding prisoners their daily value of Asian delicacy. They'll be talking by the third spoonful, guaranteed.

Durian mornthongs are currently selling on Grand Street at the edge of Chinatown.

Missing the Boat

This doesn't make much sense. Hillary Clinton has canceled her plans to attend the rally outside the UN protesting Iranian President Ahmadinejad because she found out Sarah Palin was going to be there:
“Her attendance was news to us, and this was never billed to us as a partisan political event,” Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines said Wednesday. “Sen. Clinton will therefore not be attending.”
But if it was supposed to include Palin and Clinton, how was it a partisan event? It's only partisan now that Clinton has backed out - something which won't reflect well on her, and by extension, perhaps Democrats in general and Barack Obama. Then again, perhaps she's not so upset by the idea that Obama could lose.

Also on the subject: Chaim, DA, Trep.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!

Happy birthday, Erachet!!!
p.s. i feel like GO president with all the birthday announcements ;)

Women in Public - Tznius or Not?

My brother OD and I recently concluded a long, drawn out discussion that I will spare you all from having to read. However, the main thrust of the discussion was a topic that I think is both interesting and important, and am curious as to what people think, feel, think, and - for those who have the background and knowledge for it - know from sources and discussion from throughout Jewish history and in Halacha (Jewish law) regarding the subject.

We were discussing a variety of subjects, from the Lehman meltdown to voting trends to AIG's takeover by the Federal Reserve to the Sarah Palin effect. While talking about Palin, and noting that he is a fan and thinks that she brings a lot to the ticket, he questioned whether it might not be tznius in general for a woman to be in such a high profile position. (In retrospect, I should have reminded him that she's only going to be the VP, and whoever hears about the VP!? But alas, I didn't do so.) This started the discussion, so:
Are women in public* positions a breach of the ideals of tznius?

* - high profile: whenever the term is used below that is what it means; not merely women out in public

My brother felt that they seem to be. He gave as a possible proof the discussion about the Moabites and why only males cannot marry into the Jewish nation, while females can. [In short:] Within that discussion, the Talmud cites the idea of kol kvuda bas melech pnima; a woman's glory is inside. The reason the Moabite women hadn't come out was because such a thing was immodest for them to - they stayed in the camp. Therefore, since they hadn't been cruel (as the men had) to the Jews, they were not banned from the Jewish people.

To him, the various female figures throughout Tanach are not proofs against the idea. For example, Sarah, while a major figure, also was someone who stayed in the tent. The figure he found to be most difficult was Deborah, who a shofetes, or judge, and even then, one can argue that it was a necessity that needed to be filled, rather different from someone choosing to seek out a major position.

I felt that the issue with women in public was not a hardline of "women in public is not tznius", but a much finer line of how a person acts when in the public eye. It is not a matter of being in public that is immodest, but one who seeks the public eye for no reason is by definition lacking some type of tznius, in that they are focusing attention on themselves for no apparent reason. For instance, a woman who is bringing attention to herself in the public domain while not doing anything in particular might be breaking the ideal of tznius, while a woman running for vice President who obviously attracts a lot of attention by definition might not be.

Both my brother and I noted that if I were correct, then there is no reason it should be different for men. Men are equally required to be modest in their dealings, in their presentation, in how they do things. Except, as my brother asked, what then does bas melech pnima mean? I argued that despite everything, there is still an extra level of modesty required by women because of their greater noticability; while both a man and a woman might do the same thing, there is certainly more attention paid to it when it is a woman doing it. This split, however, is not a great one, and I couldn't find any real backing for it. At this point, we each had our own leanings on the subject but found the other's position to have serious holes: I questioned the focus in Tanach on many women in high profile positions, while he questioned what then the idea of kol kvuda bas melech pnima means according to the Talmud.

Therefore, I am putting the question to the readership: Is there something about a woman in a high profile position that strikes you as being a little off? Immodest? Not immodest, but not very modest, either? Is the immodesty only in how a person acts and what a person makes of situations? What does bas melech pnima mean to you?

While I could end the post there, I should note that after we got off the phone, I did a quick search on the term bas melech pnima. Most of the time it was used had no applicability to this; many times it was extended in ways that boggle the mind (such as not naming a street after a woman).

Jonathan Rosenblum in an old Cross-Currents piece seemed to lean toward the explanation I had used:
Kol Kevuda Bas Melech Pnima, say Chazal. A great Torah figure once pointed out that the language of Kavod (glory) always implies some aspect of gilui (revelation). The glory of a bas Yisrael is her modesty with respect to the entire world.
This seems to jive with the idea that it is a woman's modesty in action that the Chazal are referring to, not an idea that women in public positions are immodest. R' Mordechai Willig, in a short discussion on Shavuos, discusses the actual line itself and also seems to link it more toward action than that idea:

Hashem confined His revelation to Moshe, speaking to him from within the tent (Ohel Moed), because modesty is beautiful.

The proof text, "and walk humbly with your God" (Micha 6:8), shows that Hashem, too, walks humbly and modestly. The honor of Torah itself, referred to as the bas melech, the child of Moshe the king, is inward -"Pnima". (Tehilim 45:14).

The beauty of modesty (tznius) is cited by Rashi (Shmot 34:3) in the context of Kabalas HaTorah itself. The first luchos (tablets), which were given publicly, with great noise and fanfare, were overcome by the evil eye, and destroyed. The permanence of the second luchos (tablets) which were given privately to Moshe, demonstrates that nothing is more beautiful than modesty.

Interestingly, he doesn't even use the pasuk about women at all, but rather about the Torah. However, the Talmud seems to clearly have felt that it can be applied to women or that it is about women; it seems that R' Willig is the one extending it here to learn something from it about modesty. Then again, his lesson assumes that the line is about modesty in general.

What was perhaps the most interesting find was an old Mail Jewish written by a close family friend of ours, R' Dr. Aryeh Frimer (also known for his writings on women in halacha). It's worthwhile to read the whole thing, where he lists numerous sources, but the money quote is near the beginning:
Many of the respondants to Shaul Wallach's discussion of a woman's place, correctly indicated that the concept "Kol kevudah" is a relative concept according to many many poskim. I will give a long list below, but allow me to merely quote the noted halakhicist Rav Shaul Yisraeli Shlitah who writes:

"It would also seem that the Boundaries of Kol Kevudah bat melekh penimah depend on local custom and only in communities where women never leave their homes is behavior to the contrary to be considered improper. However, in our generation religious women work in offices, hospitals, kindergartens and schools and yet no one objects."
Lest someone argue that there is a fine line between a job such as the ones mentioned above and a leadership position, he discusses in the middle sources about such positions:
These Poskim discuss the issue of kol kevudah head on. However, the issue comes up in a variety of other ways in our integrated society. Thus, to the above add the poskim who allow women to assume community leadership positions (elected or otherwise)
...and he proceeds to leave such a list. This seems to conclude that it is in fact a machlokes, with some poskim holding that it is perfectly fine while others draw a line at some lower point.

So again, I'm wondering what people think - is there something about a woman in a high profile position that is wrong because it shows a lack of modesty?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Formula for Success

There were a few good pieces in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, but this pair pretty much sums up some of the most important pieces of the economic puzzle the best:
The Competitiveness Index created by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) identifies "16 policy variables that have a proven impact on the migration of capital -- both investment capital and human capital -- into and out of states." Its analysis shows that "generally speaking, states that spend less, especially on income transfer programs, and states that tax less, particularly on productive activities such as working or investing, experience higher growth rates than states that tax and spend more."
Hmm.

Ranking states by domestic migration, per-capita income growth and employment growth, ALEC found that from 1996 through 2006, Texas, Florida and Arizona were the three most successful states. Illinois, Ohio and Michigan were the three least successful.

The rewards for success were huge. Texas gained 1.7 million net new jobs, Florida gained 1.4 million and Arizona gained 600,000. While the U.S. average job growth percentage was 9.9%, Texas, Florida and Arizona had job growth of 18.5%, 21.4% and 28.9%, respectively.

Bigger hmm. Then there's this:Guess which two states have the lowest tax rates? Guess which have the highest? And finally:

Mr. McCain will lower taxes. Mr. Obama will raise them, especially on small businesses. To understand why, you need to know something about the "infamous" top 1% of income tax filers: In order to avoid high corporate tax rates and the double taxation of dividends, small business owners have increasingly filed as individuals rather than corporations. When Democrats talk about soaking the rich, it isn't the Rockefellers they're talking about; it's the companies where most Americans work. Three out of four individual income tax filers in the top 1% are, in fact, small businesses.

In the name of taxing the rich, Mr. Obama would raise the marginal tax rates to over 50% on millions of small businesses that provide 75% of all new jobs in America. Investors and corporations will also pay higher taxes under the Obama program, but, as the Michigan-Ohio-Illinois experience painfully demonstrates, workers ultimately pay for higher taxes in lower wages and fewer jobs.

Not to mention, there's no such thing as a corporate tax. But that's for another post.

A'thousand Timeouts, Yes...

...PHIL
‘O’ Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art the ‘O’ Romeo?
Deny thy Belichick and refuse thy game plan;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And you'll no longer be a Brown.

ROMEO
Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?

PHIL
'Tis but thy game plan that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not an Offensive mind.
What's Offense? it is nor holding, nor false start,
‘Tis passing, or running, or any other part
Belonging to forward progress!. ‘O’, be some other name!?
What's in a name? That which we call a Touchdown
By any other name would count as six;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call it,
Atone that dread performance which he owns
Without that title - Romeo, doff thy headset,
And for that team name which is such part of thee
Take all myself.

ROMEO
I take thee at thy word.
Call me but fired, and Cowher be new baptized;
Henceforth I never will be a Brown.

Romeo, Romeo

I think a lot of English majors are about to get disappointed.

After watching the first two Cleveland Browns' games this season, one of my fears and thoughts about this team has been confirmed: Romeo Crennel is not a good head coach. As I see it, there are only a few requirements of a coach: Motivate his players; prepare them well for the games (most important); and in-game, he must be able to make good adjustments, call timeouts at the proper time, and manage the clock and score well.

While he seems to be fine with the players, the Browns never seem to be fully prepared. They simply look clueless as to what to do on given plays - there's a difference between getting beaten on a given play or being blocked by a good scheme from the other team (which certainly must be overcome) and being in the completely wrong place or in a bad scheme. Meanwhile, the adjustments are too slow - while the adjustments are often good, they need to recognize faster which plays and schemes the other team is having trouble stopping or moving the ball on and keep using variations of it until the other team stops them.

But the most frustrating times with Crennel have to do with clock management and the score. If you're down 21 with 10 minutes left, you go for it on 4th-and-3 from the 15. You don't kick a meaningless field goal - then kick away! - when you'll still need a field goal, two touchdowns, and a 2-point conversion (which is awfully similar to 4th-and-3!!). His botching of the clock and timeouts last night was incredible, though at least he was smart about ticking the ten seconds off instead of wasting a timeout (note that some of that is on Anderson as well for not just doing it anyway). They should have run up and spiked it with 22 seconds left in the half, then formed a play or two, then taken their timeout if they hadn't scored a TD to kick a FG. At the end of the game, instead of flinging the ball randomly after the sack, spike the ball with a second left and design another Hail Mary. And, most importantly, when you're down 10-3 with less than 4 minutes left at the opponent 27, why the heck would you kick a meaningless field goal which only means that you have to stop the opponent from approximately the same spot as they'll get it after you kick off, then drive about 70 yards to score a touchdown even if you can make that stop?!

Grr. The largest strand of hope for this season lies in the utter lack of any dominant team in the AFC other than the Steelers, whom even a pathetic Browns team somehow managed to stay with despite being seemingly outplayed all game. The Colts barely pulled out a win. The Chargers and Jaguars are 0-2. The Patriots are missing Tom Brady. The Broncos can't play defense, the Titans' starting QB seems to have lost it, and the Bills and Titans are big question marks. If the Browns can get a clue on defense, remember how to move the ball on offense [and not drop passes!], and perhaps rent a brain for Romeo, they can still make a nice run for the playoffs. Last year's Giants started 0-2, too.

Oh, and maybe if Matt Cassell turns out to stink, they can loan Brady Quinn (a Charlie Weis product) to the Pats for a few DBs for the year. How crazy would the idea be? It's mutually beneficial, could pay large dividends for both clubs... think about it!

Monday, September 15, 2008

On Friendship

Check out this post by Erachet.

When Tznius Isn't...

...with the above term being all the rage I was relieved to find that there are still some who have not lost the true meaning of the word.

Matt at KANKAN CHADASH

"Many people have a "dress-code" notion of tznius. Yes, it is true that tznius involves wearing modest attire. However, the essence of tznius (according to my understanding) is to not be concerned with one's image, but to be concerned about what is true and what is good, but Ms. B. seems to be very concerned with her image. In other words, Ms. B. wears tznius clothing, but she seems to be lacking in spiritual tznius.
Take another look at her profile and note how much she speaks about her own image. She mentions her commitment to tzius many times. Her adherence to tznius has, itself, become a violation of the whole idea of tznius. She has made tznius into a uniform which she proudly wears and says, "Look at how tznua I am!" In my mind, a girl who cares this much about her frum image is not too different than a girl who is obssessed with her physical beauty. Let's put it this way: if there were a Frum, tznius "Vogue" magazine, it wouldn’t surprise me if Ms. B. were a subscriber."

The Devil's Music!!!...

...where, oh where, is Ray Charles when you need him.

Article 1
Article 2

I wish I was making this up:


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