Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I'm Sure There's A Message...

On the lighter side of the news, it has been reported that the New York Yankees have signed third baseman Kein Youkilis to a one year contract.

The beginning of his career was described, in part, in the book Moneyball.  In the book, Youkilis is referred to as the "Greek god of walks." (Get it?  Youkilis -- Eucilis) by Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane.

So, you have a Jewish ballplayer described as the Greek god of walks signing a contract to play in the city with the largest Jewish population in the country during a festival which commemorates the victory of the Jews over the Greeks.

I'm sure there's some message to be learned out of this.  I just don't know what it is.

The Wolf

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Weberman Trial and the Mixed-up Morals of the Community

I've been following the Weberman Trial in the news and on Twitter the last few days and I must say, it's been quite... instructive, to learn about Mr. Weberman and his occupation, as well as what goes on in the Satmar community.

Just in case you're not familiar with the case, I'll present the basics here:

There was a girl in the local Satmar school was not conforming to the standards of behavior in the community.  The principal of the school ordered her parents to have her see Nechemya Weberman, a local "counselor."  They were also ordered to pay about $12,000 up front in fees to Mr. Weberman for his services.  Failure to comply would result in her being expelled from the school.

The girl saw Mr. Weberman over the next three years, from ages 12 to 15.  She alleges that, during that time, she was sexually abused by Mr. Weberman in locked-room sessions.  Mr. Weberman denies all wrong-doing with regard to the issues of sexual abuse.

However, there are several facts that are not in dispute, which make me wonder about the goings on in the community and with Mr. Weberman in particular.

Let's start with the fact that he took his "client" on a 14-hour trip to Monsey.  They took this trip alone and did not arrive back home until midnight.  Granted, this is no proof that any abuse took place on the trip, but I've got to say, it certainly does not pass the stink test, *especially* for someone in a community where separation of the sexes is such a high priority and where they take every practical precaution against unmarried/unrelated men and women being together. 

There is also the fact that, it came out in trial, that Mr. Weberman runs a non-profit organization.  He admitted on the stand that he used funds from the non-profit to pay for yeshiva tuition for his kids.  Prosecutors also showed that purchases from the non-profit went to purchase items at at least three lingerie shops. 

It was also confirmed in trial that the Williamsburg Va'ad HaTznius (Modesty Committee) exists (despite one defense witness's attempt to deny the existence of such a body, another defense witness confirmed it) and that they engage in practices such as invading the rooms of girls to look for (and confiscate) contraband, such as cell phones. 

In addition, there is also the fact that four men are now awaiting trial for witness tampering, bribing a witness and coercion, after they tried to pressure the girl into not pressing charges.  It is also alleged that they wanted to pay her and her then-boyfriend $500,000 to leave the country and let the matter drop.  There are also four other men who have now been charged with witness intimidation by taking photographs of her in court. 

You could easily argue that there are simply some bad apples in the community.  Yes, it's been shown that Mr. Weberman is not exactly what one would call a morally upright person.  In addition, it's very obvious that there are others in the community who are willing to break the law and do whatever they feel is necessary to prevent the case from running it's course.  But that doesn't speak to the entire community, of course. 

But there is one point which can be made regarding the leadership of the community.  It's something that I noted back when Shaul Spitzer was awaiting trial on arson charges for attempting to burn down a New Square house with its residents asleep in their beds.  It speaks to what the true values are of the leadership of the community and where they truly stand on the moral compass.

9000 schoolboys in Satmar were given a prayer to say for Nechemya Weberman and instructed to say it.  In short, they were asked to pray that this man, who has admitted to stealing charity money and  who engages in 14-hour trips alone with an underage girl.  Apparently, however, none of that matters to the leaders of the community, as they view him as an upstanding member of the community.  However, had he done something such as owned a television, shaved his beard, espoused Zionist beliefs, or even been seen eating Hebrew National hot dogs, he'd likely be written off as a bum or a heretic and not someone who is worthy of the time to utter a prayer. 

It's actions such as these that show the moral leadership of the community.  In New Square,  Aron Rottenberg found his daughters expelled from school for the "crime" of their father davening in another shul, yet Shaul Spitzer was welcome in the yeshiva following his arrest on arson charges.  It's almost incomprehensible -- daven in another shul, you're a social outcast; attempt to burn down a house with people sleeping inside -- you're welcome back to the yeshiva with open arms.  The moral values of the leadership of the community are so wrong that I'm just left to scratching my head in bewilderment. 

The same thing applies here with regard to this case.  You can steal from charity, you can do things that would otherwise shock the community and, as long as you had the endorsement of the leadership, you're a moral person worthy of the community's support.  But if you were to do something such as shave your beard, wear the wrong clothing or even own a TV, you'd be an outcast and a social pariah.

The mind just boggles.

The Wolf

Monday, August 13, 2012

Losing Sight of What's Important In Shidduchim

The Flatbush Jewish Journal has a regular column titled "Ask the Flatbush Shadchan" by Mrs. Chana Rose.  The following letter appeared in a recent issue.  Any typos are mine and mine alone.

Dear Mrs. Rose,

We have a fabulous daughter in shidduchim.  She went to the right schools, seminary, camps.  She is a baalas midos, involved in chesed, smart, focused, etc.  We are a balabatish family, also involved in the community.  After seminary in Israel, she opted to pursue her studies in Brooklyn College.  After much soul searching, asking hadracha, and much davening, we agreed to let her pursue her studies there.  Everything has been going well, except for the fact that she is not in shidduchim anymore!

She has found "Mr. Right," or so she thinks, on her own.  Now, what is she thinking?  We are not that kind of home, this is not how things are done, not in our family, not in our community.  Mrs. Rose, how can we allow this?  And if we do, how can we legitimize the situation so that it does appear to be a Shidduch?  Truth be said, he does happen to be a great boy.  However, we feel like the "rug has been pulled out from under us."  We did not have the option or privilege of checking him out nor his family.  We did not have the experience of setting that grand table in anticipation of a boy's arrival for a date.  We did not wait up for hours till she came home.  All the dating was done on school time.  We were presented with a done deal!  How should we proceed now?

This letter typifies one of the things that has gone horribly wrong with the world of shidduchim today.  This woman* is completely missing the forest for the trees.  The goal of shidduchim isn't to "set a grand table" or "wait up for hours till she comes home" or to have the "privilege" of checking out another family.  The point is to find a match that will make the bride and groom happy.  Everything else, if it needs to be done at all, is just secondary.  

In this letter, the daughter has found someone who will make her happy.  Furthermore, the mother even agrees that he's a great boy!  Instead of being happy for her daughter and her happiness, she's contemplating having her daughter throw it away ("How can we allow this?  And if we do...") just so that she won't feel cheated out of what she feels is her due (the ability to set the table, wait up for her, check out the family, etc.).  She needs to realize that the shidduch process is not about her and her ability to do these things, it's about her daughter and her daughter's happiness and future.  She's completely lost sight of this, and instead is  so focused on the little play rituals that go on that she's forgotten the end goal.

The Wolf

* At least I'm assuming it's a woman.  The letter sounds like it was written by a woman.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Did Someone Declare A Jewish April Fools Day and Not Tell Me?

I'm beginning to wonder if someone instituted a Jewish equivilant of April Fools Day and forgot to inform me, because, I'm having a hard time believing a story that VIN is reporting as fact.

As we all know, some chareidi men in Israel go to great lengths to avoid any possibility of contact between the sexes.  Among the measures that have been tried (with varying degrees of success) include separate sidewalks, signs telling women not to walk in certain areas at certain times, separate checkout lines (or even hours) in stores, and so on.

The newest development on this front has now arrived.  Someone in Israel has developed a pair of glasses that purposely obscure vision.  The glasses are designed to prevent the person who is wearing it from seeing more than three meters ahead.  If the person already wears glasses, they also sell stickers that you can put over your lenses to provide the same effect.

Normally, I would have a hard time believing that this could be true.  My first natural reaction is to dismiss this as a joke.  However, after what I have seen over the last few years, I have to say that I just don't know.

If this report is, indeed, true, then I feel very sorry for the direction that we are headed.  Aside from the complete absurdity of the concept of hindering one's eyesight, there is also the issue of public safety to deal with.  How does one know whether it's safe or not to cross the street if you can't see more than three meters in front of your face?  Does the admonition to protect yourself from physical harm no longer apply?

Personally, I find it very ironic that this news story is reported right after we read on Shabbos the verse of וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם, וַעֲשִׂיתֶם--כִּי הִוא חָכְמַתְכֶם וּבִינַתְכֶם, לְעֵינֵי הָעַמִּים:  אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁמְעוּן, אֵת כָּל-הַחֻקִּים הָאֵלֶּה, וְאָמְרוּ רַק עַם-חָכָם וְנָבוֹן, הַגּוֹי הַגָּדוֹל הַזֶּה.
(Rough translation:  and you will observe them [my laws] and do them, because they are your wisdom and knowledge in front of the nations that they will hear of all these laws and say "surely this is a wise and understanding nation.")

I find it hard to believe that a single non-Jew reading this story would think that, by doing this, we are being wise and understanding.  On the contrary, they will look at us and say "what a foolish people they are..."

The Wolf

Sunday, June 03, 2012

What's Important To Us As a Community? We Need To Decide.

This week's Mishpacha magazine has an article about Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, the executive Vice President of the Agudath Israel of America.  In the article, Rabbi Zwiebel gives us an interesting insight into the priorities that exist in the chareidi mindset.

In discussing blogs and bloggers, Rabbi Zweibel makes the following statement:

"I do believe that among them are people who are deeply pained about certain issues and feel that this is the way they can express their pain.  I will even go a step further and say that through the pressure they've created, communal issues that needed to be confronted were moved to the front burner and taken seriously.  A case in point is abuse and molestation issues.  The question is, if the fact that they've created some degree of change is worth the cost.  At the very least, it's rechilus, lashon hara and bittul z'man.  That's a high price to pay."

A high price to pay?  Really?   I'm just utterly flabbergasted at the statement.  Does he truly believe that there is any possibility that it's better to not pay the price and keep the molesters in a position where they continue can abuse children?  In my opinion, if one could engage in those sins and wipe out the instances of child molestation among us, I'd engage in it all day long and call it a bargain.

He goes on to discuss another potential price to be paid by the recent attention that bloggers have put on the issue of molestation:

"Then there's is the damage wrought to the hierarchy of Klal Yisrael.  We've always been a talmid chacham-centered nation, and it's dangerous to ruin the fabric of Klal Yisrael by denigrating the ideal of daas Torah and by allowing personal attacks on gedolei Yisroel."

I agree with Rabbi Zwiebel.  There has been considerable damage being done to the reputation of the gedolei Yisroel -- but the primary cause of that damage are the gedolim themselves -- not the bloggers.  Had the gedolim chosen to confront the issues early on, there would never be a need for a bloggers such as OUJ to point out that the gedolim and yeshivos have long since failed to protect the abused among us.  Our communal leaders thought that they would be able to keep abuse issues silent forever and that no one would ever be any the wiser about what goes on.  By covering up cases of abuse, they left the abused and their advocates with no other choice but to go public to force change.  So, yes, the damage to the gedolim is a high price to pay -- but, again, one that needed to be paid and paid willingly to protect those who are being abused and to prevent further abuse.   The protection of children is worth more than the honor of gedolim; and the protection of children is worth more than rechilus, lashon hara and bittul z'man.

Ultimately, however, it's how we make these decisions that define us as a people.  We will not, ultimately, be judged by the deviants in our midst -- any large enough population will have its share of deviants -- but rather how we decide to deal with these deviants and how we protect those who would be victimized by them.  We will be judged on how we prioritize our resources and attention as a community, and how we decide which problems are important enough for us to address publicly and with force.  And, sadly, we are failing that test miserably.  When the executive vice president of a major rabbinical body in America can publicly state that there's even a possibility that lashon hara about actual abusers is worse than the abuse itself, we are failing the test.

Our priorities are so messed up that a part of our community is so determined to prevent a person from seeing a woman's forearm or breast that they can fill a major sports stadium with people, but cannot muster the same will to gather and send a message that people who actually touch, abuse and rape children in our community will not be tolerated.  Clearly, we see which issues are important to the people who purport to be our leaders -- and in their choice, they show the failure of  their leadership.

The sad part about all this is that the choice shouldn't even be necessary.  Were a gadol to get up tomorrow and announce that he is taking abuse and molestation issues seriously -- and then publicly follow up on it by taking active steps to expose and rein in molesters and see that they actually pay for their crimes, they would have the honor that they deserve and there would be no need to publicly talk about their failures on the issue.  They would be honored for their handling of the problem and we would have protection for children.  The fact that they do not seem to consider this to be a viable course of action is a further sign of the failure of our community.

It's up to us to make a choice.  Is it more important to keep the honor of the gedolim intact by being silent about incidents of abuse, or is it more important to bring attention to those incidents?  Is the honor of a gadol worth more than the soul of a child?  It's up to us to decide.  Heaven help us if we make the wrong choice.

The Wolf

Hat tip:  Failed Messiah

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

From The Mailbag: The Fins-and-Scales Proof

A reader named David sent me the following email:

Dear Wolf,

I wanted to sincerely tell you how much I appreciate your website, a good example of the way the Internet can be used for the good.

I also wanted to ask you about a particular point that you make in your "Torah proof" section.

I appreciate the work done, and I should say that I came to pretty much the same conclusions about those "proofs".

Except for the animal signs; you write that it doesn't stand as a valid proof of the veracity of the Torah, because Chazal could have guessed it right.

What you don't seem to see is that the argument is so strong because if their statements had been shown incorrect in the future, the entire credibility of Chazal – the belief in their inspired way of reading the Bible, and thus Judaism itself, would have crumbled.

Moreover, these assertions were unnecessary, they seem to have been made only to prove the validity of torah shebeal peh ; and, seriously, what were the chances that no one would ever find something in the water that has scales but doesn’t have fins ?

I may be wrong somewhere, but I don’t see it.

Kol Tuv,


David was following up on a post of mine regarding one of the proofs to the divinity of the Torah.  The proof that David is referring to goes something like this:

The Torah mentions that in order for a fish to be kosher, it must have fins and scales.  The Mishna in Niddah goes on to point out that all fish that have scales also have fins.  The halachic inference from this is that if you find a fish that has scales but no fins, it is kosher, because all fish that have scales have fins.  Thus, if you find a part of a fish with scales but no fins attached, you may eat it since it definitely had fins at some point (which may have been removed by a predator or some other agent).

The proof* then continues in a similar vein to the four-animals proof:  How could Chazal have made such a statement?  Were they ichthyologists who knew every species of fish on the planet?  Since they made this statement, and it has proven to be true to this day**, surely the information must have come from a Divine source (from He who knows all the species of fish on the planet).

I addressed this proof by stating that making accurate statements are not proof of divinity.  The Mishna's author could have simply extrapolated from the sample of fish species that they had at hand and created the general rule that all fish that have scales also have fins.  Anyone can do this... including you and I.

For example, I'm going to state right now that all stars (except collapsed, dead stars) perform nuclear fusion at their cores.  And now let's suppose that 10,000 years from now, someone digs this statement up and, lo and behold, the rule still holds true -- every star that was ever found was powered by nuclear fusion.  Now, let me state up front that I am not an astronomer.  There's no way I could have known that all the stars that are out there.  Does the fact that I made such an accurate statement make me divine?  Does it mean that my wonderfully accurate statement was of divine origin?  The answer, obviously, is no.  I simply extrapolated a general rule based on the sample of stars that we currently know about -- something that could have just as easily happened with regard to the Mishna in Niddah and fishes.

This brings us to the point of David's letter.  He counters this by stating as follows:

What you don't seem to see is that the argument is so strong because if their statements had been shown incorrect in the future, the entire credibility of Chazal – the belief in their inspired way of reading the Bible, and thus Judaism itself, would have crumbled.

But here David is making assumptions that are not in evidence.  He's assuming that the author of the Mishna  was concerned that their statement might have been disproven in the future.  However, there are several other possibilities.  Perhaps the author of the Mishna simply thought they were right and that they didn't entertain the possibility that they were wrong (as I did in my statement about the stars)?  Perhaps he never considered the possibility that, even if he was in error, that it would cause Judaism itself to crumble (I don't think it would, but that's another post for another time).  Perhaps they were simply trying to offer advice to people regarding kosher fish and didn't give any thought whatsoever to the broader implications of such a statement.  In short, David is begging-the-question.  He's starting with the assumption that the statement is of Divine origin and that the author of the Mishna was, in fact, making a proof to the divinity of the Torah.

The Wolf

*Technically speaking, this proof cannot be used to prove the divinity of the Torah, but rather the divinity of this one particular statement of the Mishna.  But let's leave that aside for now.

** Well, not really, but, for the sake of argument, let's say that it is 100% true today.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's The Shidduch System That Objectifies Women

I'm sure that by now, many of you have read Yitta Halberstam's recent article in the Jewish Press.  In it, she bemoans the fact that frum young women are exacerbating the "shidduch crisis" by not taking every possible step (up to and including plastic surgery) to make themselves more beautiful for their dates and their mothers-in-law to be.

In her article, Mrs. Halberstam describes a gathering she attended where single girls looking for husbands could get together to meet with the mothers of young bachelors.  At the meeting, she observed, to her dismay, that most of the girls wore very little, if any makeup.  She was shocked.  Didn't these girls realize that they were there to be inspected as potential wives for their sons?  How could they attend such a meeting without dolling themselves up?  As Mrs. Halberstam put it (empahsis mine):

Were they in denial about the qualities young men are seeking in future wives? Yes, it is somewhat disillusioning that men dedicated to full-time Torah learning possess what these girls might perceive are superficial values, but brass tacks: they want a spouse to whom they are attracted. The young men themselves might be too shy or ashamed to admit it, but their mothers won't hesitate to ask what for some is the deal maker/deal breaker question, namely: "Is she pretty?"

A lot of lip service is given to the notion in Judaism that women aren't judged in shidduchim solely by their sexuality and appearance.  Much thought and consideration is given, they say, to her character, her middos, her family and on and on.  They point to pesukim which extol such ideals such as "Sheker haChain v'Hevel HaYofi." How much more beautiful and modest this is, they say, than in the "secular world" where women are viewed largely, if not solely, as sexual objects.

Personally, I'm beginning to think that it's just the opposite.  I don't know how many of you have noticed, but in the "secular world," there is no "shidduch crisis." I see lots of wedding photos and videos on the Internet.  I've seen quite a few "proposal" videos as well.  You know what?  Girls who are less than gorgeous and who don't wear tons of makeup manage to become engaged and marry every day.  Girls with "average" looks, girls who are overweight, girls who have physical handicaps, blind girls, deaf girls, and on and on.

But what about Mrs. Halberstam's "deal maker/deal breaker" question of "Is she pretty?". Aren't men interested in looks?  Don't men want wives who are pretty and attractive? 

The answer can perhaps be illustrated by a friend of mine.  When he was dating, he had a list of traits (both physical and non-physical) that his future wife had to have.  She had to be in a specific age range, with specific hair color, a weight range and on and on.  He dated for a while, unsuccessfully.  And then, something happened.

He moved out of town and met, apparently on his own, a divorced mother fifteen years his senior.  She was overweight and had the "wrong" hair color.  And, yet, he was deliriously happy with her.  He found his match.  She certainly wasn't was he was looking for on the physical side, but he was so happy with her emotionally, mentally and spiritually that he simply put all that aside and decided that he loved her for who she was inside, despite the fact that she had all these qualities (older, overweight, divorced, mother) that would have caused her to be kept out of the "shidduch market."  In other words, once he found someone  he was happy with, the physical side of his "wish list" became less important and, perhaps, irrelevant.  They're still married, fifteen years later.

And that's exactly how it is in the secular world.  Don't men want pretty wives?  All other things being equal, perhaps they do.  But people are willing to make trade offs.  He loves her sense of humor, so who cares if she isn't a size two?  He sees an inner beauty in her that attracts him, so who cares if she isn't well-endowed or has some crooked teeth?  He loves the fact that she laughs at the corny jokes he likes to make, so he doesn't worry about her lack of high cheekbones.  And on and on it goes every day in the "secular world."  Women manage to find their mates despite not being physical knockouts, fashion models, D-cups, nose jobs and excessive makeup.

In Mrs. Halberstam's shidduch world, however, the exact opposite is true.  In her world, a man is so motivated by looks and appearances that if his potential wife is not pretty, it's unlikely (or impossible) that any other qualities that she may have can make him happy. So, she and other mothers like her stand as the gatekeeper to her son's dating world, weeding out anyone who isn't pretty, reinforcing the idea that such a "deal-maker/deal-breaker" question could or should even exist.

To me (at least), that *is* the objectification of women.  Rejecting, out of hand, girls who don't meet some standard of physical beauty is objectifying them.  Pleading with girls and their mothers to wear lots of makeup and have plastic surgery to make them look better solely for the purpose of attracting a potential husband is objectifying women.  Determining that a man cannot be happy with a girl who isn't a stunning beauty is further objectifying them.  It's a shame when men do it, but it's doubly shameful when women do it to other women.  And it puts the lie to the idea to the idea that shidduchim are not about physical beauty but about middos, etc. 

I've been married to Eeees for over twenty years.  On the day we first met (Friday, Feb 26, 1988), she was not wearing any makeup.  She didn't wear any on our first date, our second date or on any other dates.  To this day, she barely wears any makeup.  I can say, with complete confidence, that I have *never* seen her out of the house with lipstick.  Furthermore, when I met her, she wasn't a size two or a size four, or even a six or eight.  She did not have the face of a fashion model.  Nonetheless, I was completely swept off my feet by her.  I will admit that *I* find her incredibly beautiful physically, but it wasn't her physical beauty that won me over.  It was her sweetness, her gentleness, her sense of humor, her middos and her warm, wonderful heart that won me over far more than her appearance.

No, Mrs. Halberstam... physical beauty was not a "deal-maker/deal-breaker" for me.  Nor is it for billions of non-frum/non-Jewish men (who aren't shallow jerks) around the world every day.  It's a shame that, in this area where we claim to have superior values to the rest of the world, we find ourselves asking "Is she pretty?" as a "deal-maker/deal-breaker" question before going any further.

The Wolf

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Does the Flatbush Jewish Journal Contradict Itself?

This week, there is going to be a special election for a district in the New York State Senate.  This district is located in Brooklyn and covers a significant portion of the Jewish population in Brooklyn.

As you can expect, there is a significant amount of political maneuvering going on, with the two candidates -- Lew Fidler and David Storobin, looking to secure rabbinical endorsement.

The Flatbush Jewish Journal, a community newspaper known for it's right-wing leanings, put a notice on the front page of the latest issue stating "It Is Prohibited To Vote for Lew Fidler." 

 The cover directs you to an advertisement on page 20, where a list of 42 prominent rabbis, including such names as Rabbi Chaim Yisroel Belsky, Rabbi David Cohen, Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetzky and others, state that it is forbidden to vote for Lew Fidler.

The exact wording of the advertisement states that because of Mr. Fidler's votes concerning gay marriage "It is therefore considered a Chillul HaShem and Assur [forbidden according to Torah law]  to vote for or to provide funding, campaign assistance, public recognition or any type of support to Councilman Lewis Fidler.  To do so would amount to being mesisy'ayah ovrei aveirah (abetting transgression of the Torah's commandments)."

The document with the original signatures can be seen here.

Pretty powerful words, if you ask me.  In short, it is forbidden to do anything to help Mr. Fidler win the election according to these leading Rabbanim.

Except, perhaps, accept an advertisement in support of Mr. Fidler, because that's exactly what the Flatbush Jewish Journal did.  On page 18 (which is right before the ad above),  they have an advertisement listing people who support Lew Fidler.

 So, what's the story here?  It's forbidden to help Mr. Fidler's campaign (except, perhaps, when he pays for an advertisement?)

The Wolf

Question About the Kuzari Principle

One of the proofs that is commonly given to the authenticity of the Giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai is the Kuzari Principle, as outlined by R. Yehuda HaLevi in his book HaKuzari.

The crux of the proof is (in oversimplified short form) that the story of the  Revelation was witnessed by millions of people and the knowledge of that information was transmitted from parent to child, generation after generation.  Anyone trying to invent such a story anywhere along the way would have been proven a liar, hence the story must be true.

There are a number of problems with the Kuzari Principle, which I don't really want to get into in this post.  Instead, I want to address one particular point in the argument -- the transmission from parent to child.

This transmission is vital to the proof.  Implicit within the argument is that the child hears about the from their parents... or, in other words, that the parents/teachers are the transmitters of the information.  This differs from, say, reading information in a book which could have been written by anyone and may or may not contain the truth.

However, I've got to wonder if we haven't reached the stage where most people's primary knowledge about the Revelation isn't from their parents but is, in fact, from the Torah itself.  If their knowledge of the Revelation comes from having read the Torah and not from their parents, then how is it different than anything else read in a book?

Or am I making some sort of a logical error here?

The Wolf

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Administrative Note: Issues With Photo Theft

I've noticed that some of my photos were being stolen from this site and being used for commercial and non-commercial purposes.  I don't suspect any of this blog's usual readers of this activity... it's largely (I suspect) people using Google to search for images that fit their needs and, since Blogger and Picasa are Google-owned sites, they come up high in the searches.  Part of the fault lies with me for not taking steps earlier to prevent this theft.

In any event, I've disabled some of the pics and will be changing some of the photo posts I made in the past.  The changes will all be measure to minimize photo theft.  Other than the actual photos, no content to any post (photo-related or otherwise) will be changed.

Some of you may see some of the photo posts appear in the RSS feed after I make the changes.

My apologies for any inconvenience this causes.

The Wolf

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Persecuted? They Don't Know The Meaning Of The Word.

By now, I'm sure you're all aware of the rally that was held last week in Jerusalem's Kikar HaShabbat.  Chareidim chose to dress themselves and their children in Nazi garb to protest... well, I'm not sure what they were protesting.

Many chareidim in Israel, it seems, feel persecuted.  As you are no doubt well-aware, extremists in the chareidi camp have been trying to force an agenda of religious extremism on others in Israel.  Bloggers have long been writing about the violence and intimidation coming from the extremists' camp.  Eventually, a number of incidents involving violence on buses and intimidation of school-age children has captured the attention of the international media.  People began writing against the actions of the extremists and, rightly or wrongly, against chareidim in general.  In short, the chareidi public had a PR nightmare on their hands, and the entire chareidi community, both the extremists and those against them, were caught up in the glare of unflattering light brought against them.

In response, over a thousand men gathered in Jerusalem to protest on the night of Dec 31.  Many of the protesters dressed themselves and their children in Holocaust-themed clothing, trying to show that just as the Jews in Nazi Germany were persecuted, so too they are being persecuted.  You can see images of the protest here and here.

The not-so-funny part of the entire affair is that these people have no idea what the word "persecution" means.


These people live in a state where Judaism can be freely practiced (even if they are unable to freely push extremist views on others).  There are no laws preventing anyone from keeping Shabbos, davening, learning Torah and so on.


They live in a state where many of them do not (by choice) work, and instead choose to learn Torah all day while being supported by the state.  In addition, in a state where military or national service is normally mandatory, they are largely *excused* from such service if they continue to learn in yeshivos, and given the opportunity to serve in special chareidi units if they so choose.


They live in an environment where they aren't subject to special Jewish taxes, aren't subject to having their properly confiscated without compensation on the whim of some local official, are free to live pretty much wherever they want, aren't forced in overcrowded urban ghettos and aren't subject to forced labor.


They aren't forced to go into churches each week and listen to fiery sermons delivered by preachers telling them that they are condemned to torment on earth and hell in the afterlife for holding on to their religious principles.  They've never been forced to make the choice between the Cross and the sword, never had to face a mob *literally* screaming for their heads simply because they chose to maintain their Jewish beliefs.


  • Ask a Jew who lived through the miracle of Purim if these people are truly persecuted.
  • Ask a Jew who lived through the oppression of the Seleucids at the time of the miracle of Channukah if these people are truly persecuted.
  • Ask a Jew who lived in medieval Europe, where their lives and fates could hang on the whim of some local lordling or church official if these people are truly persecuted?
  • Ask a Jew who lived in Spain during the Inquisition, where any outward display of Jewish behavior would likely mean death for them and their family if these people are truly persecuted.
  • Ask a Jew who lived through the Khmelnytsky Uprising if these people are truly persecuted.
  • Ask a Jew who made it through the Nazi Holocaust if these people are truly persecuted.
  • Ask a Jew who bravely held on to Jewish practice in secrecy in the Soviet Union if these people are truly persecuted.

Any of those people would have *loved* to be able to live the life the chareidim are living now.  Persecuted??  They have no idea how good their lives are in comparison to the vast majority of Jews who have lived during the last two thousand years.  Their use of Nazi-created imagery to portray themselves as the victims of persecution only shows that those who participated in the rally are completely ignorant of history... and that's truly a shame as you'd think that, as a people who have lived through so much true persecution, they'd be more appreciative of just how good they truly have it.

The Wolf