Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sometimes I Need To Learn... just keep out of it if the person involved doesn't really seem to want help. And especially when they seem to think that bashing entire groups of people is the answer to their problems.

(Yeah, I know that's somewhat cryptic to most of you. Those who know what I'm talking about will know).

The Wolf

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I Guess I Have To Rename My Blog...

As I'm sure you've read by now, an official in Israel has been referring to the swine flu epidemic as 'Mexican flu." In the statement of R. Yaakov Litzman:

"We will call it Mexico flu. We won't call it swine flu in order not to have to pronounce the word swine."

And yet, Rabbi Litzman, you used it in that sentence. Twice. And, with all the commenting that people have made about your silly statement, you have caused the word to be said many, many more times. :)

The W***

(Hat tip: made public upon request of the person who emailed me a link)

Monday, April 27, 2009

And It Just Gets Better,,,

So, Tuvia and I have been having a pleasant conversation (see the comments) about the recent conviction and sentencing of Dr. Mazeltov Borukhova -- who was accused of hiring a hitman to kill her estranged husband. Tuvia's contention is that she wasn't convicted according to Torah law, we have no right to think she's guilty of the aforementioned crime.

Okay. I don't agree, but that's his opinion. But then he added this little gem:

I think you are still did not get my point, which is; just because the goishe court found someone guilty does not make that person guilty in my eyes, regardless of the “evidence” that they have presented. The basses for that thinking are that they were not found guilty in a court that is based on Toiroh principles. I know that such court does not exist today, and for that matter they are being judged by a goishe court, but their decision is nothing for me to the point when tomorrow they will go free because they will win the appeal I will have absolutely no problem to become Mechusonim with any one of them!

Ah, so I see. So, let me get this straight... to reject someone as a potential shidduch because his/her mother may have worn a jeans skirt, or he may have worn a blue shirt, or used the wrong type of tablecloth or any of the other silly reasons that people use to reject potential shidduchim is fine, but you'd have no problem marrying an actual murderer???*

The Wolf

* To be fair, I don't know that Tuvia would have a problem with any of the above mentioned "defects" - perhaps he wouldn't. But even if not him, it would not surprise me to find that there are people who would subscribe to that convoluted logic.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Another Great "It Was A Frame Job" post...

Dr. Mazeltov Borukhova was sentenced to life in prison (without the possibility of parole) for hiring her cousin to murder her husband. The motive for the killing was that she had just (days before) lost a custody battle to her estranged husband, Dr. Daniel Malakov.

Truth be told, the evidence against her was pretty solid and it was pretty much an open and shut case. A sad story all around, to be sure.

Of course, as in a case like this, you'll have some people who believe (what else?) that she was framed by the authorities. A poster on Vos Iz Neias (Tuvia, #53) made the following comment:

We can’t judge her since she did not have any Din Toiroh about this case. As fare as I understand there is no direct evidence in this case, not for her not for her relative. Torah demands clear and direct evidence, not circumstances and motives. We do not know a lot of details about the case. Everybody getting so emotional about this whole thing, but wake up!! Why should we trust goishe investigators, who get $$$ and higher positions for closing the case? Did any Rabbi step in to evaluate any of the evidences? Did any Jewish Leaders open their mouth to request fair judgment, the way Toiroh requests it? When the Jews are quiet then goim do what ever they want. I will not be surprised to find out that DA planted evidence to raise a political scandal “Look Religious Jewish could also kill!! Look they are not so innocent!! Etc.

Oy... where do I start.

OK, let's take it from the top.

We can’t judge her since she did not have any Din Toiroh about this case.

For starters, *we* aren't judging her - the state of New York is. And the state of New York *can* judge her. Indeed, not only can they, but they are required to under the 7 Noachide mitzvos. Or did you think that the civil authorities were supposed to turn her over to a bais din?

As fare as I understand there is no direct evidence in this case, not for her not for her relative.

There is direct evidence regarding her cousin -- Mikhail Mallayev shot Malakov in broad daylight in a park in front of witnesses, who testified at the trial. As for her, there is plenty of evidence to show that she was in on the plot too. And, if you're going to tell me that you require only eyewitness testimony, then I assume that you're in favor of turning loose someone who murders a Jew with no eyewitnesses?

Torah demands clear and direct evidence, not circumstances and motives.

But she's not being judged under a Torah standard. There is no court set up to judge such a case. And, let's not forget, a properly constituted bais din had extralegal ways of getting rid of people whom they felt should be executed for their capital crimes but could not be executed properly for one techinical reason or another. (I think I have a post about that coming up in the next week or so.)

We do not know a lot of details about the case.

Actually, we know a great deal about this case. On a scale of 1 to 10 regarding knowledge of the murder case, this one's at least a 9.

Everybody getting so emotional about this whole thing, but wake up!! Why should we trust goishe investigators, who get $$$ and higher positions for closing the case?

Let's look at it this way. Police officers get a salary because someone has to pay them to do their jobs -- just like any other position on earth. Likewise, doing a good job earns you a promotion, again - just like any other position on earth. What sort of system would you have? One where the police don't get paid and get promoted for NOT closing cases?

Did any Rabbi step in to evaluate any of the evidences?

No, for several reasons. First of all, rabbis, by and large, are not forensic experts capable of judging evidence in a murder. Secondly, it's not their job to do so. Thirdly, I suppose you expect the police to bring in a rabbi when it's a Jew on trial, but not an imam when it's a Muslim on trial?

Did any Jewish Leaders open their mouth to request fair judgment, the way Toiroh requests it?

See above... she's not being judged on a Torah standard because she lives in a time and place where that is not applicable. Or, is it your opinion (since there is no Jewish court capable of trying such cases) that no Jew should ever be put on trial anywhere in the world for anything?

When the Jews are quiet then goim do what ever they want. I will not be surprised to find out that DA planted evidence to raise a political scandal “Look Religious Jewish could also kill!! Look they are not so innocent!! Etc.

Ah, yes. The DA planted the evidence. I suppose he also killed Dr. Malakov, bribed the witnesses, stole Dr. Borukhova's and Mr. Mallayev's phones, made the phone calls and text messages between them, returned them and then took $20,000 out of her bank account and gave it to Mr. Mallayev, just to show that a Jew could kill someone.

Tell me, sir, do you actually think before you post things?

The Wolf

UPDATE: That's what I get for posting from memory. The contact was 65 calls between her and the murderer in the days preceeding the murder, not text messages. My apologies for the error.

Great Comment on Yeshiva World News

YWN has a story about the upcoming protest in Yerushalayim against Egged regarding the lack of Mehadrin buses.

I don't want to start a debate on whether Mehadrin buses are a good idea or a bad idea. What I do want to focus on is a comment made by someone on YWN. "Lo taasu keyn" writes as follows:

Though I thoroughly disagree with the concept of sending women to the back of the bus, or treating them with less than the utmost respect, I understand and accept that a significant proportion of residents of Yerushalayim want such arrangements. I’d suggest one thing. Remember where you are. You had the opportunity to elect a charedi Mayor who might have been able to create a compromise on this issue that you could live with. But you, as a community, chose to divide yourself with bickering and recrimination. The consequence was that you got a successful businessman, an intelligent and patriotic mayor, who, while not unfriendly to chareidim sees them as only one of a number of his constituencies.

Instead of demonstrating, if you really believe in this cause, educate your fellow citizens about who you are and what you advocate for in positive, constructive ways. Posters on rechov meah shearim in yiddish and burning dumpsters will change NO minds. Will create NO sympathy, and will be INEFFECTIVE.

Raboisai, that’s what change is about. Not taking out your frustrations, justified or not. Not berating those who disagree with you, or who don’t recognize the authority of Daas Torah to the same extent that you do. It’s about being effective, and that means taking the time and making the effort to create a significant enough constituency that it will have to be heard, and dealt fairly with. It may not succeed, but it stands a much better chance than the usual grievance theatre.

So, you have a choice. give a geshrai about gilui araios, disrespect to daas torah, and unfair treatment, blaming of course the evil tziyoni power structure, or actually do what everyone else in every democracy in the world has to do when they want change - convince enough people to support you through education, cooperation, and compromise that either the government has to listen or you have the wherewithal to change the government. Until then, stop whining.

I think it's an excellent point. However, I am very afraid that this will turn into an excersice of doing things "the wrong way." I've posted in the past about the right way and wrong way to effect change in people's behaviors and it seems to me that time after time after time, the chariedim choose the wrong way. They choose the wrong way to communicate the message about shmiras shabbos, the ehrich way of dealing with people and, sadly, the proper way to observe the mitzvah of tznius.

Many a commentator have pointed out on my blog that the true purpose of these behaviors is not to encourage observance of whatever precept is the cause de jure, but rather to simply reinforce the behavior for their own members. However, to me, that always seems to do more harm than good. If they really want to encourage greater observance of tznius, they'd do well to follow what "Lo taasu keyn" recommends.

They might also do well to speak the truth regarding what is halacha and what is merely a chumra. Stating that separate seating in public transportation is *required* by halacha is just simply wrong -- as thousands (if not millions) of Jews around the world ride mixed-gender public transportation throughout the year with no halachic qualms whatsoever. Perhaps part of the reason that no one takes them seriously is because the people they are trying to influence understand that the chariedim are making a mountain out of a molehill.

The Wolf

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Unchanging Torah and its Changes

I was at a good friend's son's Bar Mitzvah tonight when another friend of mine told the following joke:

Moses is up on the mountain receiving the Torah. God is dictating the commandments to him and he is faithfully writing them down to disseminate them to the Children of Israel. Then the Lord says:


"God," starts Moses, "does that mean that we can't eat milk and meat together?"


"Lord," asks Moses, "does this mean that we have to have two separate sets of dishes?"

"THOU SHALT NOT BOIL A KID IN ITS MOTHER'S MILK," thunders the Almighty again.

"God," entreats Moses again "does this mean we have to wait six hours after meat before we eat milk again?"

A exasperated voice comes down from the heavens: "DO WHAT YOU WANT!"

Humor aside, I've always wondered what biblical figures would think of Judaism if they could be here in this day and age. Would Moshe think that we were off the wall when we told him that we don't eat corn or legumes on Pesach? Would Shmuel think that his religion has been turned on its head when he hears that there are towns where men and women are required to walk on opposite sides of the streets? Would Yishaya think the world was turned upside down when he's informed that, for many, what one is wearing on his head during davening is more important than what one has in one's heart?

Of course, this isn't a line of thought that's unique to Judaism. You can apply it to other areas as well. One could wonder what the Founding Fathers would think of the federal (and state) governments today and how their words have laid the foundation for a Consitution (and the Supreme Court decisions that interpret the Constitution) that would probably surprise and shock many of them.

But there is a major difference between the United States Consitution and the Torah. There is no place in the Consitution where it makes the claim that it applies to all times. Indeed, the Founding Fathers were well aware that the world changes and that the Constitution may well need amending in the future. You can argue that they may or may not have agreed with those future changes, but they did forsee the need for change.

The Torah, on the other hand, makes the point that its statutes and teachings apply to the Jews for all time. Yes, parts of the Torah may only be functionally operative under certain circumstances, but the teachings contained in the Torah are meant to be forever. And, in truth, one could easily support that by stating that, unlike the United States Consitution, the Torah is not the work of a fallible being. A Divine Being (unlike even the greatest of humans) is capable of creating a document which is relevant at all times -- despite how the world around it changes.

But one has to ask -- if the Torah is so immutable, then where did all this extra "baggage*" come from? If Moshe, Yehoshua, Shmuel, the Tana'aim and Amoraim all ate kitniyos on Pesach, then how on earth did it reach the point where the vast majority of Jews in the world today consider it verbotten? If the Torah is so constant, then from whence springs the entire Chassidic movement? Aside from a very few diehards, no one seriously believes that Moshe was a Lubavitcher, or a Satmar. No one imagines that Mordechai was a Belz or Ger chosid -- or any other sect. I highly doubt that any seriously believes that Shmuel's wife shaved her head after her marriage or that Gideon put on two sets of tefillin every day. If the Torah is so unchanging and eternal, then from whence come many of the practices that Orthodox Jews of all stripes practice and consider binding in our everyday lives?

Of course, the fact of the matter is that the Torah (or, perhaps more correctly, our observance of the Torah) *has* changed over the years. In some ways, it probably changed for the better, but you could probably just as easily make the argument that in some ways it has changed for the worse. Despite what some people will tell you, the Torah is not immutable or sacrosanct - its practice has evolved over the years to the point where -- even allowing for the loss of the sacrificial service -- people who lived in biblical times would be hard pressed to recognize it today.

The Wolf

* I don't mean to use the term "baggage" in a derogatory manner. However, it's the best word that I could come up with at the moment.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Tranquil Road In the Marsh

During Chol HaMoed, I took Wilma (who is expressing an interest in photography) down to the salt marsh by Marine Park in Brooklyn to do some shooting.

We went right before sunset, which is a crucial time in photography. The best time to take landscape photography is right by sunrise or sunset. During those times, the sun's light has a golden quality that you don't get at other times. At other times during the day the sun's light is harsh and overly bright, but sunrise/sunset is just perfect.

Here are two shots that I took while in the salt marsh. As always, comments, criticisms and critiques are welcome, encouraged and appreciated.

Canon XSi, 18-55mm lens at 18mm
f/3.5, 1/640 second

Canon XSi, 18-55mm lens at 43mm
f/5.0, 1/500 second

The Wolf

Previous Photos:
Are You Looking At Me?
Sunset Over The Hudson
First Day of Spring
Duck Again!
Llama -- an Unorthodox Picture
Yellow Flower
Panorama: Empire State
Borei M'Orei HaAish
Floral Macro: How Close Can You Get?
Shutter Speed & Light Trails on the Brooklyn Bridge
On The Wings of Gerber Daisies
Sometimes, an Out-of-Focus Shot Works Well Too
The Ghosts Of Grand Central
Third Night
Shooting From A Different Angle
Sunflower Arrangement (discussion of lens apertures and depth of field)
Empire (basic discussion of lenses)
Hovering Bee
Sunflower Macro
Statue of Liberty
Trinity Church, September 11, 2008
Manhattan Tulips

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Here's Something You Don't See Every Day...

We all know about the mitzvah of Pidyon HaBen -- redeeming of the first born. Many of us are lucky enough to be able to perform this mitzvah.

Somewhat less well known is the mitzvah of Pidyon Pehter Chamor -- redeeming a first born donkey. In short, when a Jew owns a donkey that is the first born of it's mother, it must be redeemed from a Kohen in exchange for a sheep. This mitzvah is not done very often, as there are a number of conditions that the donkey must meet before the mitzvah applies.

Adderabbi has some pictures and video from such an event last year. I found it very interesting how they decorated the donkey and sheep for the occassion.

The Wolf

Monday, April 06, 2009

Rabbi, Heal Thyself...

Honestly Frum recounts an event that happened when a prominent Rav gave a Q&A session in his neighborhood.

he said that all things being equal and as long as there is no chance for chillul hashem, it is mutar to cheat on ones taxes. After pushed on the answer and asked about the shulchan aruch where it says it's asur and that one has to follow dina d' malchusa he said that the shulchan aruch only wrote what it did because he was "affraid of the authorities".

Looking beyond the blatant disregard for honesty and being responsible members of the community, I thought the following was interesting:

Apparently, if there is a danger of chillul HaShem*, then cheating on your taxes is forbidden. But if chillul HaShem is such an overriding concern, how about the chillul HaShem that results from making the statement in the first place resulting in thousands (if not more) of non-frum Jews (and non-Jews) who hear that Orthodox Jews believe it's fundamentally okay to cheat on taxes?

The Wolf

* Isn't there *always* a danger of being caught by the IRS?