Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Israel And The Evangelicals: A Match NOT Made In Heaven

7 of the Second Month 5770

Rabbi Dr. Sholom Gold and Jewish Israel present:

"Israel And The Evangelicals: A Match NOT Made In Heaven"

Please join us on Monday, 11 Iyyar (April 26) at 7:30pm at the Israel Center in Jerusalem, 22 Keren Hayesod Street.

Introductory remarks by Rabbi Sholom Gold, Dean of the Avrom Silver Jerusalem College for Adults, and Rabbinic Director of Jewish Israel, followed by a presentation by Jewish Israel.

Haveil Havalim #263 And Kosher Cooking Carnival #53 Are Up!

7 of the Second Month 5770

This week's edition of Haveil Havalim, the world's largest Jewish and Israeli blog carnival, is being hosted by Snoopy at Simply Jews. It's the Post Yom HaShoa Edition.

This month's edition of the Kosher Cooking Carnival is being hosted for the first time by Shimshonit.

Thanks to all those who take their time to host!

Monday, April 12, 2010

When Passover Became A Holiday Again

29 of the First Month 5770

Once upon a time, there was a holiday called Pesah (Passover).

It was a joyous time for all Jews. But then the current galuth (exile) came, and things began to change. Jews began to change. They had to adapt and to hide and to assimilate into the cultures of the surrounding goyim, in order to survive.

It was a challenge to wear Jewish clothing and to observce Jewish customs. Jews were beaten up or even killed for being different, eating differently, and dressing differently, and believing different things than their neighbors did. So, gradually they changes their habits, to look and act more like their neighbors.

What choice did they have?

Even those Jews who isolated as much as possible, and who were uncompormising in their loyalty to Torah, were not immune to such changes in practices. Yet their isolation caused another fundamental change in Jewish thinking.

The despair set in. If only we could fill our “mitzvah piggy banks” to a critical mass, Mashiah (The Messiah) would come and save us, take us to Eretz Yisra'el, rebuild our Holy Temple, and all would be well!

We would live happily ever after.

There was no need to learn about the Laws of the Temple. After all, weren't they only relevant to the First and Second Temples? The Ramba”m never intended for us actually to build it, just to have the merit of studying them. After all, EVERYONE knows that RaSh”I said the Temple will fall from the sky,...prefabricated.

There was no need to learn the Laws of Kings and their Wars. Mashiah would know them already, and teach us everything that was necessary. And after all, he will have supernatural powers enabling us to be free from such matters anyway.

All we had to do was to was sit back, learn, say Tehillim (Psalms), and placate the goyim as best we could, and our Hero would eventually come to rescue us (ie. do all the work of redemption).

This focus on only parts of the Torah led to new ideas. If only we were more stringent on this issue or that, Mashiah would come sooner. Some of these stringencies were necessary, keeping Jews far from sin, while residing in a foreign environment, a Jew's natural habitat being Eretz Yisra'el. However, some stringencies began to arise, simply because there was nowhere else for Judaism to go. Moving to Eretz Yisra'el, where most misswoth could be performed, where learning Torah was optimal, and where Jews belonged leHatkhilah was only an impossible dream.

This became the prevailing hashqafah (view), and all Torah learning began to fit into this pre-established rubrick, pertually letting Jews off the hook from being active participants in the redemptive process.

Then came the Maskilim, the academics, the so-called “rationalists,” the ones who were too progressive and enlightened to believe in the “superstitions” of their forefathers, not even entertaining the idea that maybe the Judaism of their fathers and grandfathers was not Judaism lived by HaZa”L (Our Sages, may their memories be for blessings), nor even the Rishonim. Nope. Everything had to go.

At the end of the 1700's, a new strategy arose. Some asked, “Why don't we try chipping away at that 'superstitious' Torah one piece at a time? We'll go after the Oral Torah first, and pretend to believe in God and the Written Torah.” But, this strategy wasn't really a new one. It had already been tried by the Tzadoqim (Saducees). Similar strategies were later attempted by early Christians, altered and refined by keeping a pulse on what was popular, keeping what the Romans and other pagans liked about Judaism, and discarding what was proclaimed to be too difficult or demanding.

Much of this very, pick-and-choose strategy was next incorporated into that of the Jews with “new ideas” of the 1700's. Halachah (Torah Law) quickly lost its status as something binding.

All of these movements of Jews recognized that something was wrong with Judaism. Yet, none of them actually went back to re-examine the Halachah and its supporting sources. Well, one group sort of did, but felt compeled to tweek the conceptualization of the Oral Law first. So, that hardly counts.

Other groups emerged which emphasized person meaning in religious observance, some with more of a “do whatever you want and call it Jewish” attitude than others. Yet by concerning themselves with the selfish feelings of Jews who were lost, angry, or confused, over the search for what was authentically Torah, they sacraficed their heritage to the God of Self, and successfully created something which was still endlessly farther away from Judaism than what was in the hands of the isolationists who valued stringencies, and shunned anything incompatible with their preconceived notions born out of galuth.

The battle between the pseudo-old ideas and the pseudo-new ideas continues, and this Pesah, the following could still be heard:

“I hate Pesah.”

“I hate cleaning for Pesah.”

“There's nothing good to eat during Pesah.”

“I'm always too exhausted to enjoy Pesah.”

“If Passover is an indicator of what the rest of Judaism is supposed to be about, then I want nothing to do with it. I just don't get it.”

Waiting to eat, and thus starving for hours, trying to focus on heavily detailed divrei Torah and complex midrashim, and then told to stuff your dinner down your throats, in order to eat the afikoman before halachic midnight. Where is the simhath yom tov in that?!

However, the solution to the damage done by the pseudo-old ideas does not come from those with the pseudo-new ideas.

The solution is NOT to do whatever we want and ignore the centrality of halachah.

The solution is NOT to pretend to be frumer than frum, so that we can legimize our unsubstantiated leniencies in other areas of Judaism.

The solution is NOT to replace the centrality of halacha with an emphasis on only what is “meaningful,” in other words, make it up according to your feelings, like putting an orange or even a piece of bread on the seder plate.

The solution IS to rediscover what the Halachah (Torah Law) actually is, and then do it.

Unfortunately, both those with the pseudo-old ideas and the pseudo-new ideas are too stuck in their ways. Those who are close-minded close themselves off from authenticity, fooling themselves into believing the notion that the way they look, act, and speak is not so far away from HaZa”L. After all, they believe that their stringencies have made Judaism better than it was. And, although in some ways they deserve credit for the survival of Judaism, the idea that we can now move back to the proper (ie. only) Jewish Homeland, and learn what is proper Jewish dress, observance, and speech is nothing less than heresy. They are too blinded by hashqafah and power to see what is or is not authentic Judaism. They “know better.”

Those who proclaim open mindedness are not really open minded at all. After all, they are enlightened and progressive, and have no desire for authenticity anyway, fooling themselves into the belief that enlightenment and progress, adopted from Western society, IS authentic Judaism. They “know better.”

May the Holy One, Blessed Be He grant guidance to those of His People who are lost.

May He grant all those who had a lousy Pesah this year, the knowledge and courage to have an enjoyable Pesah next year,...like the one I had.

A Pesah which follows a period of SANE cleaning that which is halachicly necessary to clean
(You'd be surprised!)

A Pesah which offers more to eat than eggs, oil, shmaltz, potatoes, carrots, coconut, and preservatives

A Pesah Seder with lively and interesting discussions of Yetziyath Mitzrayim, yet also...

A Pesah Seder in which the meal commences not long after returning home from beth kenesseth (synagogue)

A Pesah Seder in which the meal is relaxed, and not rushed

A Pesah Seder in which guests do not struggle to stay awake, nor are bored out of their minds

A Pesah in which people feel comfortable eating at each other's homes

Then maybe Pesah will become a holiday once again.

בשנה הבאה בירושלים הבנויה

Next Year may we all be celebrating Pesah in a rebuilt Jerusalem!


A version of the Ramba"m's Hagadah may be printed out from Mechon-Mamre.org.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


28 of the First Month 5770

From Parshath Shemini...

ויקרא יא כב

את-אלה מהם, תאכלו--את-הארבה למינו,
ואת-הסלעם למינהו; ואת-החרגל למינהו, ואת-החגב למינהו

Leviticus 11:22

...even these of them you may eat: the locust after
its kinds, and the bald locust after its kinds, and the cricket after its kinds,
and the grasshopper after its kinds.

משנה תורה, הלכות מאכלות אסורות

א, כב מי שהוא בקי
בהן ובשמותיהן, אוכל; והצייד נאמן עליהן, כעוף

ט,ה דגים וחגבים, מותר לאוכלן בחלב

Mishneh Torah, Laws of Prohibited Foods

1:22 One who is an expert with them and with their
names [may] eat [them - locusts]; a hunter [can be] trusted regarding them, like
[with] poultry.

9:5 ...fish and locusts, it is
permissible to eat them with milk

Locusts were the last course at the Se'udath Halachah several years ago. The chef sauteed the locusts, after having removed the head and front legs. Like fish, locusts do not require shehitah. The chef described the taste something like Bissli* (grill flavor).

Yemenites have often been associated with the only Jews who still eat locusts. Yet, Current Sephadi Chief Rabbi Ammar has recounted that while growing up in Morrocco, he was aware of some Jewish clans that had a tradition of eating them as well.

I know of at least one resident of K'far Tapu'ah who has eaten them,...openly. Walking along a path outside of the town, he found a particular insect. He showed it to the rav who was with him, and asked him if it was kasher, this rav having been a talmid muvhaq of Rav Yosef Qafah ztz”l. The rav examined it, and said that it was. The Tapu'ah resident then took out his lighter, lit the insect on fire, quicly blew it out, and ate it. (Look for the K'far Tapu'ah town council to deny this, of course!)

A couple of friends of mine had planned to raise locusts, and sell them commercially. They ordered locusts from a laboratory in Haifa, which they received, and were in contact with the same rav mentioned above, about acquiring a kashruth certfication.

Unfortunately, there were a few mishaps, like the car with the locusts inside of it getting stolen and one mother getting upset by a few of them getting out of their cage.

So, for now, their ideas for commercial locust sales are postponed.

Once every few years, there are locust storms in the south near Eilat. At night, the locusts are more or less immobile, due to the cold temperature. So, they can be easily gathered, and put into sacks. But in this day and age, I would probably prefer raised instead of wild. Who knows what kind of toxins from our polluted environment they might have ingested in the wild?

When I bring this up, I am always asked the same question. Would I actually eat one of these things?
Yep. I think that I actually would.


*Bissli is an Israeli snack food made from wheat.

2 Spring Salads

28 of the First Month 5770

Here are a couple of recipes I made for Pesah (Passover) to accomodate a couple of guests who do not eat qitniyoth (legumes) during the holiday. These recipes also accomodate vegans and raw fooders, and are good to serve throughout the spring and summer. As with any recipe, I recommend that you experiment to find the balance of ingredients which fit your own tastes.

5 medium tomatoes
1 hot red pepper (add or subtract to desired spiciness)
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 onion
3 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup chopped parsley and/or cilantro (coriader leaf)
1 tbsp. olive oil

Not having a proper blender for Pesah, I chose to grate the first four ingredients by hand, using the fine part of the grater. I much prefer this texture for salsa than the chunky kind. Many people do not like cilantro, so easy on it. Personally, it doesn't taste like salsa without at least a little cilantro. The same goes for the guacamole below. Mix together with the remaining ingredients. Serve at room temperature.

Variation: Roast the vegetables first, peel the skin from the tomatoes and peppers, then blend together (obviously not an option for raw fooders)

5 ripe avocados
1 tomato
1/2 onion
3 cloves of garlic
juice 1/3 of a lemon
1 tbsp. olive oil

optional: chopped cilantro (coriader leaf)

Mush the deskinned avocados into the lemon juice, which should prevent excessive browning. Finely grate the tomato, onion, and garlic into the avocados, and fold in along with remaining ingredients. Serve at room temperature with choice of chip, cracker, or rice cake.


Friday, April 09, 2010

Rebellion On Jerusalem Bus No. 74

Erev Shabbath Qodesh Parshath Shemini 5770

The 74 is one of those “tricky,” Jerusalem buses, one which starts in a religious neighborhood, and then makes its way into nonreligious parts of the city.

Yesterday, I got on the 74, and sat at the back of the bus. When arriving at the Shuq, a woman approached me, wanting to sit down next to me. I either had to scoot over or let her through to the seat next to the window. Actually, there was another option. There were several seats available on the bus. Why did she davqa have to sit next to me? Usually, my simanim (side locks) and big black kippah, albeit crocheted, are enough to “scare away” such women, but not this time.

When this woman asked me if she could sit down, I asked her, in a very nice voice, why she couldn't sit down in the available seat directly across the aisle (next to a woman). She was in shock, and muttered something I could not hear.

I then said, “I didn't say 'no.' I simply asked a question. If you want to sit here, I would be happy to get up for you.”

“You don't have to get up!”

“Yes,...I would.”

(Funny how it's OK for her to decide where she can sit on the bus, yet I am not allowed to decide where not to sit!)

When we arrive at the next stop, one of the few seats available was next to me. I had already prepared myself to get up. I was getting off in a couple more stops, and it would be easier for me to be closer to the exit anyway.

An apparently religious woman approached me. I got up, and asked her to let me pass, so that she could sit down. It was a bit awkward, but we would take the few extra seconds necessary to negotiate the aisle. No big deal.

Then, out of the blue, a college age, Russian woman starts yelling at me, “Is that reasonable what you're asking her to do?!”

She was right next to me, so I motioned the palm of my hand toward her face (yes, I admit, that was rude and wrong of me to do), and told her not to mix in (an expression I learned from you, New Yorkers, one which is identical to the expression used in Hebrew).

Then, as I continued to pass toward the door, I received I smack in the back of the head. I turned around, and was in shock. It was from that same woman, who had started in on me.

For a moment, time seemed to freeze, and all eyes seemed to be upon us, waiting to see what would happen. Would the “evil, religious man, causing problems on the bus, and single-handedly threatening democracy,” actually hit her back? I honestly don't know how many people were actually paying attention. I also don't know how many of you reading this are waiting with baited breath to find out what happened. But, no, I did not hit her back.

As I began to move again toward the door of the bus, the first words out of my mouth were...

די לאלימות

“Stop The Violence,” an expression popularized by the Israel media campain against domestic violence.

Then a sense of peace fell over me, as I continued my way toward the exit, and began my diatribe, in a very calm and clear voice:

“Why is it that you can do such a thing? I could never do such a thing. Because you're female. That is a double standard.”

(No doubt, I would have gotten arrested, even if I had responded in self-defense.)

“Don't we have equality in this 'Holy State?' Don't we live in a democracy?...

“Why don't you think about that?...”

No response. What could she say? With that, I got off the bus.

Setting any judgments aside regarding my behavior,...which was far from perfect, my statements at the closing of the incident were right. Provoked or not, no one, man or woman, deserves to be hit. Yet, Western society still condones, if not supports, this double standard between men and women....

Men are animals, so women are entitled to be aggressive in overcompensation for the aggression they have incurred from men over thousands of years, AND we won't call women's aggression, “aggression.” We'll call it “assertiveness,” or “pre-emptive self-defense.”

The fact that Western culture and sensibilities have been allowed to dominate Israeli society is a discussion for another time. (Thank you very much, Ashkenazim and co-dependent Sefardim!)

I only mention the nations of origin of some of the players for a reason. Most of those coming to reside from the former Soviet Union now are goyim, up to 70 percent, and contribute to the perpetuation of foreign influences within the so-called Jewish State. This only complicates the already confused, national identity of the so-called, Jewish state.

I have written this in order to provide a perspective, different from the perspectives you will find not only in the leftist-controled, “mainstream,” Israeli media, but also in the anti-Haredi & Settler, Jerusalem Post and in the naive and “neutral on this issue” Arutz 7.

Still, most American Jews who read this piece will either think that I am nuts, or will have absolutely no clue as to what I am talking about.

So, there you have it, the spiritual state of the Jewish People,...still in galuth (exile).

This afternoon I rode on another of those “tricky” buses, the 60. This time I didn't have a seat until the central bus station. Why? Religious women were scattered all around the bus, and none of them thought to get up and move.

If the situation had been reversed, and men were scattered about the bus, taking away seats from women uncomfortable sitting next to a man, it were have been perfectly acceptable for her to ask one of the men to move.

Not for me, though. I'm a man.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Haveil Havalim #263 Is Up!

23 of the First Month 5770

This week's edition of Haveil Havalim, the world's largest Jewish and Israeli blog carnival, is being hosted by Super Raizy.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Qitniyoth Wrap-Up 5770 (Kitniyot, Kitniyos)

Pesah 5770

Here are some of the things I have heard so far about qitniyoth (legumes) both before and during Pesah:

Religious resident of Bet El B':
“I know so many Ashkenazim who eat kitniyot now. But, we're just not there yet.”
(In previous years, this same Jew was adamantly opposed to the idea.)

Religious resident of K'far Tapu'ah:
“I see the logic behind kitniyot being permissible during Pesah, and I will say so openly. But, I am choosing not to eat them for now.”

Religious woman of Iraqi decent in Jerusalem:
“There is no way I would consider marrying an Ashkenazi man,...unless he ate kiyniyot during Pesah,...then maybe I would consider it. What's Pesah without rice?”

Two friends at the beach:
“Hey, wait a minute! You're always talking about what a hard core Litvak you are. What are you doing eating tehina?”

“I eat kitniyos during Pesah.”

“Have you ever heard of Rav Bar-Hayim?”

“No, but I don't need a rabbi to tell me that the issur of eating kitniyos is stupid.”

When you read the Kitniyot Liberation Front's account of Pesah dining this year, hopefully, you will see allusions to the core issue which needs to be fully exposed and elaborated, eating qitniyoth during being only a minor issue:

Minhagei HaMaqom vs. Minhagei Avoth
(customs dependent upon location vs. those dependent upon ancestry)

After Jews are in Galuth (exile) for 2,000 years, accepting over time that they are unable to do many of the misswoth as they are dependent upon residing in Eretz Yisra'el and/or the Beth HaMiqdash (Temple) being in place, this is what happens. Focus is placed on only what they can do, and voila! Humrah upon humrah upon humrah.

As Jews accept that the issue of minhagei avoth was simply one of the various sociological and psychological methods employed for Jewish survival while in Galuth , and as more Jews return to their true Homeland, and seek out the authentic customs of Eretz Yisra'el, then Ahduth Yisra'el (Jewish unity) will truly begin to flourish.

Hag Same'ah!