Monday, July 30, 2007

The Flip Side of Reactionary Judaism
by: Schvach Yid

Thanks to the blog site, I’ve been introduced to David Suissa’s article for Jewish titled Dumbing Down Judaism at:

I would have left a comment to this post, but to do so one must open a login account (or whatever it’s called), and that’s far beyond my ability. Besides, signing on implies some sort of membership, and that’s absolutely not for me – I hate group dynamics, in any form. I flunked it repeatedly in school, on the job, in the Boy Scouts - you name it. So, in lieu of savvy, I’ll comment here.

Of all the points made in this article, the one that hit home the hardest is about the cost of a Jewish education. The old quip states ‘it’s expensive to be Jewish’ (a play on ‘it’s hard to be a Jew’). No kidding – a frozen kosher chicken is over seven bucks; only Jahrzeit candles are affordable. Jewish philanthropists should indeed throw their money into providing every Jewish child (whose parents so wish) a quality Jewish education, with a strong emphasis on reading and translation of the siddur and Chumash. Without this all important component of a Jewish education, there can be no Judaism.

So what happened? We all know – the Holocaust, and our reaction to our resulting humiliation.
That’s right Jadies and Jents, if you’re just a wee bit perplexed about today’s state of the Jewish mentality, it’s called humiliation. The State of Israel, in its focus on social engineering, has reacted to this defining event of modern Jewish history in ways that have been destructive to that all important goal of the modern Jewish social thinker – Jewish continuity. You know, let’s make it meaningful; how do we adapt Traditional Judaism to the demands of life in the modern world; how can one make this archaic ‘stuff’ meaningful?

Oops – you lose. This approach has demonstrated itself to have been the wrong tack, for what we now have as a Jewish community is nothing of the sort. Like it or not, Judaism is the ‘old stuff’ – the stuff the Israelis rebuke as weak, impotent – the ‘stuff’ of losers. Throw it away, along with its accoutrements – Yiddish, davening, living lives of Torah and mitzvoth, and the old bearded men begging for handouts who never should have had to. Living a Jewish life should never consign its follower to poverty, not BHS (before HaShoah) and not now.

There’re plenty of worthy projects for Jewish philanthropy, and none should include ostentation. Soto Voce is an Italian virtue, and certainly not something we developed in the shtetls. We don’t need large lavish synagogues and halls for our religious functions. These have been surrogates for the real components of Jewish life. My apologies to the ‘sub-Orthodox’ movements of Judaism; you know, the Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Humanistic, and what ever else we’ve dreamed up. Their emphasis has been entirely wrong, for these alternatives to Judaism offer substitutes, not the real thing, and the longer they’ve been at it, the farther they’ve strayed.

By the way, since when is Judaism supposed to be ‘challenging’? I haven’t found that in the Chumash. ‘Challenging’ is not a substitute for Talmud, and no one has to be a ‘Talmud chochom’ – pilpul – to have learned Talmud and live a Jewish life. The Ba’al Shem Tov didn’t teach Judaism as a challenge or as a platform from which to chase ‘Jewish issues’, he taught his followers to become enwrapped in it – the joy and pleasure of living Jewishly, of davening with devikut (connection to Gd). Those who attend a ‘sub-Orthodox’ synagogue/temple should remember this the next time they go to ‘services’ and begin their version of avoda with Eastern-style meditation. Foy, have they missed the boat!

It’s all here folks. It’s a pity we’ve walked away from it, and now we’re paying the heftiest of prices. So to the Jewish philanthropist I say spend your money on Jewish education, not on Jewish buildings. Don’t give your gelt to Jewish universities, and certainly not to the cash- grubbing health care field. No more Jewish names on the sides of hospitals and biomedical research institutions. If you want your names on display, buy garish tombstones for yourselves. Your cash should educate Jews of all ages in traditional Judaism, without the ‘challenging’ social bs. The world Jewish community will be much improved, and stronger, as a result of your generosity.

One last point. I think Yo Yenta is right when she suggests that philanthropists, and others, should concentrate efforts on Jews who are in Judaism rather than chasing those who have chosen to reject it. Many, many Jews have opted out of Judaism - they see no value in it. Lot's of comments have been made to me by disaffected Jews against our religion and community. So be it!

More on The Queen of Judaism
by: Schvach Yid

Who can say enough good things about the role of the Jewish woman? Here is a ditty I’ve just come across from Malka Trouger of Chabad Lubavitch, originally published in Sichos in English. The URL is here:

Become enlightened!

A Partner In The Dynamic Of Creation
Womanhood in the Teachings of
the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson

A Lifetime Renewed - Descent for the Sake of Ascent

by Malka Touger

Published and copyright © by Sichos In English
(718) 778-5436 • • FAX (718) 735-4139

The [1] Biblical simile, [2] "As a rose among the thorns," refers to the soul as it descends into this material world; on a larger scale, it also refers to the existence of the Jewish people within exile.

For both the soul and the Jewish people, this involves a formidable descent, a descent fraught with danger.

At times, the path of life appears to be obstructed by brambles: events sometimes occur which our limited human intellect cannot comprehend.

Paradoxically, however, it is through this very process of descent that both the soul and the Jewish people as a whole ultimately climb to their most complete level of perfection.

This is not to imply, heaven forbid, that the world is in itself evil.

Quite the contrary: [3] "I have come into My garden" is a metaphor that describes the return of the Divine Presence to this world.

This indicates that the world is G-d's own garden, a place which grants Him pleasure and satisfaction.

Though we are often unable to perceive this positive quality, the Jewish people have been charged with a task and a mission:

Holding aloft [4] "the lamp of a mitzvah and the light of the Torah," they illuminate the world and reveal the good which is concealed within it.

Women as Luminaries

In particular, this quality is manifest in those mitzvos that are associated with producing actual light; for example, the kindling of Shabbos candles.

The visible light which they generate reflects how every mitzvah, and in a wider sense, every positive activity a Jew undertakes, brightens the G-dly light within the world.

The mitzvah of lighting the Shabbos candles has been entrusted to Jewish women; [5] it is they who draw G-dly light into every Jewish home, and suffuse it with the inimitable Shabbos atmosphere of tranquil joy and spiritual enlightenment.

On a cosmic scale, the world has been described as G-d's dwelling [6] - His home, as it were, and the Jewish people have been described as His bride. [7]

Developing these analogies: Just as the Shabbos candles are lit before the actual commencement of the Shabbos, our present performance of mitzvos in exile kindles the light that will illuminate the world in [8] "the Day which is entirely Shabbos, and repose for life everlasting" - the Era of the Redemption.

This connection also highlights the role of Jewish women, for the prophecies associated with that age [9] point out the superior qualities which Jewish women possess.

Eternal Life in this World

The eternality which will characterize the Era of the Redemption is likewise reflected in every individual Jewish soul.

This applies not only to the soul as it exists in the spiritual realms, where it enjoys eternal life in the radiance of the Divine Presence, [10] but also to the time it spends in our physical world.

In this spirit, our Sages state in regard to the Patriarch Jacob, [11] "Our father Yaakov did not die: just as his descendants are alive, so too is He alive."

The same is true of each of Yaakov Avinu's descendants, the Jewish men and women of all subsequent generations.

When a person's children continue the positive activities which characterized his own lifetime, then even after that person's passing, he or she is still alive. For that life has activated a dynamic which continues to produce positive changes in the world in the generations to come. And there is also a reciprocal effect: the positive activities performed by one's children can compensate for any time by which a person's life may have been cut short.

Even when a mother is now in the World of Truth, the daughters whom she brought up, and her sons likewise, can replenish the divine service which is now lacking, and which ordinarily would have been completed by her. [12]

The Pinnacle of Our National History

The eternality of the Jewish soul within the context of our material world will be fully expressed in the Era of the Redemption, when the souls of all the Jews of all generations will be resurrected. [13]

Here too the analogy of a wedding can be used to describe the unification of the body and the soul.

The ultimate Redemption of our people and of the world at large is not a remote promise.

On the contrary, the Jews of our generation have been granted complete atonement and are now at the highest pinnacle ever of our national history. All the divine service necessary to bring about the Redemption has been completed. All that is needed is that we open our eyes and perceive that the Redemption is indeed a reality.

Our Sages state [14] that the tzadikkim of all past generations will arise in the early stages of the Redemption, before the resurrection of our people as a whole.

Surely, this applies to the Previous Rebbe, the leader of our generation. He never perceived himself as a private individual and dedicated himself totally to the welfare of his people. [15]

It can thus be readily understood that he will share this privilege too (just as throughout his lifetime he always shared his insights) with all the members of his generation, [16] particularly with those who dedicated themselves to disseminating his teachings and furthering the outreach activity which he inspired.

And when that time comes, we will all proceed together - to Eretz Yisrael, to Jerusalem, and to the Beis HaMikdash, where the Kohanim will offer sacrifices celebrating [17] "our redemption and the deliverance of our souls."


  1. (Back to text) The above essay first appeared after the farbrengen of Shabbos Parshas Bo, 5752 [1992], which took place four days before Yud Shvat - the anniversary of the passing in 5710 [1950] of the Rebbe Rayatz, the saintly Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn.

On this occasion, the Rebbe spoke of the ultimate purpose for which souls descend to this world, which is one of the dominant themes of the Previous Rebbe's farewell maamar, entitled Basi LeGani (English translation: Kehot; N.Y., 1990), and related it in particular to the souls of women.

  1. (Back to text) Shir HaShirim 2:2, and commentaries there.
  1. (Back to text) Op. cit. 5:1. This verse is the subject of the above-mentioned maamar entitled Basi LeGani.
  1. (Back to text) Mishlei 6:23. On the analogy of a lamp for mitzvos, see footnote 19 to the above essay entitled, "A Partner in the Dynamic of Creation."
  1. (Back to text) Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Shabbos 5:3; the Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch 263:5.
  1. (Back to text) Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Naso, sec. 7; Tanya, chs. 33,
  1. (Back to text)
  1. (Back to text) E.g., Yeshayahu 62:5.
  1. (Back to text) Tamid 7:4.
  1. (Back to text) Cf. Yirmeyahu 31:21, as interpreted in the teachings of Chassidus.
  1. (Back to text) Cf. Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuvah, ch. 8.
  1. (Back to text) Taanis 5b.
  1. (Back to text) In addition to the above explicit statement, this farbrengen included a mystical exposition of a liturgical phrase in which the people of Israel are referred to poetically as a rose, and a mention of the fact that the Sages extol the Kohanim for the vigor with which they traditionally carry out their priestly duties.

Though personal allusions of this kind are not common, these phrases collectively were an apparent reference to Rebbitzin Reizel (Rose) Gutnick, the wife of a Kohen and the mother of a family of Kohanim - an exemplary chassidic wife and mother who lost her life in a traffic accident two days before the above address. (Publisher's Note.)

  1. (Back to text) Cf. Sanhedrin 10:1.
  1. (Back to text) Zohar I, 140a.
  1. (Back to text) This concept was once expressed by his daughter, the

Rebbitzin Chayah Mushka, of blessed memory, in these words: "Not only the Rebbe's library, but also the Rebbe himself belongs to the chassidim."

  1. (Back to text) Ch. 11 of Basi LeGani describes a king confronted by a formidable and ultimate battle. In order to secure victory he will even distribute the "hidden and sealed treasures,... the precious resources that have been accumulated over the generations," to his rank-and-file soldiers.

The Rebbe has commented that these words aptly describe the activities of their author, the Previous Rebbe.

He fought fiercely to overcome the challenges brought about by the darkness of galus. He risked (and sacrificed) his own life and revealed the ancient treasures of the kingdom - the deepest secrets of the Torah.

These were then entrusted to the rank-and-file soldiers; i.e., they were expressed in a manner that could be understood and appreciated by all.

  1. (Back to text) From the Haggadah of Pesach.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Yerida L’Shem Aliyah

by: Schvach Yid

According to the Miami New Times, Rabbi Levi Brackman’s blog, and the Life of Rubin blog, Chassidic Reggae chief Matisyahu has blown off Chabad Lubavitch – but not frumkeit – because he supposedly doesn’t want to feel ‘boxed in’. Face it, he evidently loves his fellow Jews; you know, ahavas yisroel. It’s a standard Lubavitch teaching found throughout the written teachings of the Alter Rebbe Schneur Zalman zt’l and his Chabad disciples. Plenty of this teaching is encountered in the Friedike Rebbe’s (Rav Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson) tome HaYom Yom (Daily Sayings). The report also states Matisyahu claims to enjoy kicking back with a bit of wine (kosher?; mevoshal? – these reports don’t specify).

Not that I’m such a chochom, but I’ll cut the guy a little slack. Who am I to judge? But he’s probably OK compared to others, such as Bob Dylan, who left Judaism altogether, became a ‘born again Christian’, only to return to Judaism and become somewhat of a follower of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to the extent that he would stand on line to receive a dollar from the Rebbe. Singer/poet Leonard Cohen left Judaism and so far has chosen to stay out (see his recently published collection of original poems Book of Longing - not for the derech hatznius - in which he laments his chosen loss).

Gd forbid any of these three should go the path of Madonna!

Not so fast, not so fast - Matisyahu is not gone. In the world of the Ba’alei T’shuva there exists the well recognized phenomenon of yerida l’shem aliyah – descent for the sake of assent (also called yerida l'tzorech aliyah). Don’t worry so much.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Why Judaism is Important
by: Schvach Yid

The next time someone – anyone – does a dentist's routine on your cerebrum concerning Israel, ‘the Jews’ (get it?), and the Palestinians, just remember this photo, return his/her wind, and walk away. I assume this photo is the real thing, although it appears to have been cleaned up a bit – notice the missing body part. We don't do this sort of thing to anyone, for any reason. It's not due to education or wealth - it's due to moral and ethical values. We know what's right and what's wrong.

Photo credit: Tzvi Fishman, Arutz Sheva

The Peacock Speaks
by: Schvach Yid

Last night (July 24, 2007), NBC TV news had a curious item. According to their report, it seems that Church attendance by Christian men is a little down, so much so that one clergyman has organized a ‘guy’ religious meeting (on Sundays, I guess), complete with rock band and pizza. Another Christians’ male religious group was shown cutting and collecting bramble in the bush – as a religious function.

I had to laugh. I thought of schul, most of which is a ‘guy thing’. If you’ve read my earlier blog The Queen of Judaism (May 27, 2007), then you get my point. Ten men make a minyan (try to get one together outside B’nai Brak).

My 'Bible Belt'-located neighbors are the sort who were reported in this news piece. The guys aren’t into church. They like their guns, and their pickup trucks; they like sports and beer and smoking. They like Harley’s. And they don’t like me.

They also like to fantasize about attractive women because their wives pretty much look just like their husbands, except of course, for the slightly longer hair. Almost all, male and female, are obese.

But the non-religious ploys attempted by Church clergymen to bring the men into the fold is humorous when compared to the enthusiastic practices of the adherents to Jewish Orthodoxy.

That’s all folks.

The Perils of Free Association
by: Schvach Yid

I can’t drop names – too many bloggers are getting sued for posting their minds (does this sound like a parody of Dylan?). But I can unload about my peculiar sense of free association.

So there I was, surfing the J web, and I picked up a link from the comments section of an extraordinarily popular J blog site. The link connected to the blog site of a young woman, a Jady of the world – well, at least of 4 cities on 3 continents, or so she advertises. She uses her blog to describe her international jaunts (no, not Jewish haunts!) and her attraction to what sounds like an ever-increasing level of Jewish observance. Hazak! Good for her. She’s even searching for a shomer Shabbos shidduch.

Why mention? Because, as I read her blogs my mind wandered (when doesn’t it?). I began to have images of Reese Witherspoon’s portrayal of the character Elle Woods in the flick Legally Blonde.

Elle Woods is at first portrayed as a frivolous, light-hearted, not-altogether-bright sorority girl who in the end graduates from Harvard Law School and is offered employment at a class A law firm in Boston. Not bad – I should only achieve such things! Frivolous ‘air-head’ thus develops into significant substance, and all in the context of a love story.

But after concluding my first reading of this new (for me) blog site, I took stock of the probable significance of this Jewish freelance on-line hobby-writer. She lives and flies all over the place, and that costs, so either she has a rich daddy (oy!), or a rich sugar daddy (oy vavoy!), or, I hope, she’s independently successful. I’ll pick the last case – after all, she portrays herself as a career woman and she's entitled. And boy, does she manage to get around.

So first impressions may count, but further and kinder considerations are more important. And I hope she ‘goes frum’, finds her Shabbos observant shidduch, and has lots of Jewishly committed kinderloch. As a Lubavitch rabbi (no, not the Lubavitcher Rebbe) once said to me: ‘every Jew is precious’, so the more imbued with Yiddishkeit she becomes, the better.

Post-Trauma Blues
by: Schvach Yid

Thank Gd for haircuts!

Now then, now that Tisha B’Av has ended, I hope your fast was not easy – it’s not supposed to be (I only fast on Yom Kippur). The Shabbatot of chastisement, followed by Tisha B’Av and then the 7 Shabbatot of conciliation mimic a parent/child event: first the parent’s anger, then the malchus (beating), and then the post-event consolation. But the 7 Shabbotot of compassion

that follow Tisha B’Av are in turn followed by the Day of Judgement (Yom HaDin) – also called the Day of Remembrance (Yom HaZicharon), ie, Rosh HaShana – which is quickly followed by Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement (actually the Day of lot).

The closing of Tammuz through the first 10 days of Tishrei is painful; thankfully, this period is quickly followed by Succos, and Simchas Torah, and then by Chanukah, Purim, Pesach, and Shavuos - all are commemorations and observances of joy. Baruch HaShem, most of the Jewish calendar is filled with Torah observances of happiness; but for perhaps one quarter of the year we ‘catch it’. We really must remember – it’s required.

Not so long ago I downloaded a piece of freeware. Attached, and unsolicited by me, appeared a file titled Evil and Suffering, - a ditty on Isaiah 45:7 - ‘I make peace and create evil’. This piece harps on how a ‘good and loving Gd’ could have possibly created evil. It’s an old philosophical debate to which I won’t attempt a contribution – I’m not qualified. But ‘once upon a time’ there lived a rabbi named Aryeh Kaplan (may he rest in peace) who was fond of pointing out this bit from Isaiah.

Rabbi Kaplan was a prodigious translator of Kabbalistic texts (Sefer Bahir, Sefer Yetzirah, works by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (the Ramchal), works of Reb Nachman of Breslov), and authored his own original works, some of which center on the connection of Judaism and meditation (Jewish Meditation – A Practical Guide, The Bible and Meditation, Meditation and Kabbalah). He died in 1984 at the age of 48.

Through the course of the Jewish year we oscillate in a sense, or better yet, we get flipped. First it’s sunshine – very nice; then it’s sunburn – oy! Not to worry about evil; it’s all about how we conduct and comport ourselves, or as we are taught in Pirkei Avos – a chapter of which is read every Shabbos afternoon after Mincha at this time of year – ‘good deeds must exceed one’s wisdom’ (quote is approximate).

Evil, of course, is not necessarily the issue. Throughout the Chumash we are told that HaShem has attributes that mirror human emotions and function. His 13 Attributes list His various components of Chesed, but there’s much more. He judges, He kills, He brings plagues and famine. He takes revenge (it belongs exclusively to HaShem – just read Mishle). Sometimes it seems that HaShem’s revenge appears personal and petty, but with hefty results, as in ‘you’ll eat meat until it disgusts you; until it comes out of your nostrils’ (quote approximate).

The point is that accountability is the issue, not ‘evil’. Beyond love and compassion and miracles and forgiveness there’s our accountability, as individuals and as a Nation.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Taking Swipes at the Bris
by: Schvach Yid

Once again the anti-circumcisionists are on the warpath. I’ve previously blogged about the topic of Jewish circumcision and the response of some elements in the non-Jewish world to our practice of trimming the excess off new-born phalluses.

This time however the tumult arrives from some of our fellow Jews. A recent post on Jewesses with Attitude, titled The bris-less bris at provides its readers with a link to an equally recent article in the on-line edition of The Jewish Daily Forward (Activists Up Efforts To Cut Circumcision Out of Bris Ritual at Both discuss current efforts against the practice of Brit Milah. Various things are written; the comments to the Forward article are most enlightening and entertaining. I won’t repeat the stuff here.

I would, however, like to provide a little insight of my own concerning the practice of Brit Milah, but first I’ll preface this with a proviso. I am not the beneficiary of a Torah education. I was raised in a secular home, with attendance at a Conservative Movement after-hours Hebrew school at the elementary school level. Nothing post-bar mitzvah. I am grateful for the secular education that was provided to me. The Hebrew school education I received was a waste of time. A secular education has many advantages, of course; the flip side is that one is left ‘shooting from the hip’ concerning matters of Torah. Here goes.

Anyone who has read the Chumash, English translation acceptable, from Exodus through Deuteronomy, and who has paid attention while doing so, cannot help coming to the conclusion that all of Judaism is about the Exodus from Egypt and HaShem’s revelation to us (part of the Exodus). The giving of the commandments is what the Exodus was all about - that we should give our avoda (service) to HaShem alone and not to Pharaoh or to anyone else. Repeatedly we are instructed in the Chumash that we are to follow this or that commandment because of what HaShem did for us, ie., the Exodus, or because he took us out of Egypt ‘with a strong hand and an outstretched arm’, or because we were strangers in the land of Egypt.

We are commanded in the matter of Brit Milah in Genesis, where Avraham is commanded to circumcise himself, his household, and his two sons. Exodus almost (not quite) begins with Zipporah circumcising her son, which Moses evidently had neglected to do.

The centrality of Brit Milah comes with regard to Pesach, for no man who is uncircumcised is permitted to share the ‘pascal’ sacrifice, and since then, the rabbis have ruled that no uncircumcised man may sit at the seder table on Pesach.

For those who doubt the significance of Brit Milah please consider my statement given above that Judaism is about the Exodus from Egypt. In other words, Passover is Judaism; the entire religion is about Passover, despite the fact that commandments and the Creation were given long before the yitziyat Mitzrayim (the going out from Egypt). In the Chumash we are commanded that the yearly calendar begins with the Exodus. The Aybischter’s reason for giving the commandments, He states in the Chumash, is precisely because of the yitziyat Mizrayim. This is repeated throughout the Chumash, beginning with Exodus. Without circumcision there is no participation in the ‘pascal’ sacrifice – ie, Passover. The uncircumcised are excluded.

The purveyors of ‘liberal’ Judaism will argue politics: ‘what about women?; if men, then women; what about exclusion, discrimination, an ancient and barbaric cultural practice, sadism, violation of the individual rights of the baby, health considerations, etc'? In response I can only shrug my shoulders. Judaism isn’t about politics; it’s about living a life of Torah and mitzvot, as HaShem has commanded. If these Jews who shun traditional Judaism don’t like that we are commanded to live in Israel and to do so to the exclusion of others, and that those strangers among us in ‘the land’ are likewise required to accept and adhere to HaShem’s commandments, then the problem belongs to the ‘liberals’ and not to the ‘traditionalists’.

Any evangelical leader who leads his flock to Israel needs to remember this. As Bible believing and Gd-fearing people they are obligated (and should want) to live according to HaShem’s commandments while they sojourn in the land of Israel because the Aybischter said so – ‘one law for the stranger and the home-born’. That means shomer Shabbos, shomer kashrut, derech hatznius, and taharas hamishpachas. It also means the men among them must be circumcised, and liberal politics has nothing to do with it (can you imagine evangelists invoking liberal politics as a defense?).

Jews who have chosen to reject Judaism and who advocate against Brit Milah need to take stock and remember just what Judaism is about. Tonight begins Tisha B’Av.

My apologies are extended to the Torah educated who find enormous errors in my opinion.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


by: Schvach Yid

It’s a game I’ve encountered among a community of rabbi’s in my adopted Bible Belt town. It goes something like this: The rabbi who either recruits a new ‘member’ or who is present to greet the new ‘member’ at the door when he/she ambles in, ‘owns’ that persons monitary contributions. The contributor has little or anything to say about the matter.

And so a new guy came to schul who turned out to be a macher with his own business. Suffice it to say he had cash folks. Bingo, he grew a beard and ‘got’ to put on the religious garb that marked him as the real McCoy. The congregants basically knew his up- to-the-moment tzidakah status by his relationship to the rabbi who ‘owned’ his tzidakah, and by this congregant’s mood.

Another congregant had a similar experience. A big time macher (for real!) in his chosen profession, he was very useful, thanks to his professional savvy and attainments, in providing financial services to the schul (rabbi owned and run). He too was catapulted to real McCoy status. He was permitted to don the garb, married frum, and was ‘in’. He was no youngster, and up until just recently to that moment had lived a somewhat socially risqué life, according to his account. He crashed and burned, moved across the country, dumped the threads and frum wife, shaved off the beard, remarried a woman with an overtly un-Jewish sounding name, and changed his name - emes.

My personal experience with tzidakah arm twisting is similar, except I never took the veil, and have never been useful to any rabbi – or to anyone else – either professionally or financially.

So what’s up? Rabbi Without a Cause ( has a posting today titled ‘Rabbinic Government: Good Intentions, Bad Idea’. What can I say – I agree, but not as a chochom (I’m anything but), but as one who would fall under rabbinic jurisdiction should Rabbinic law ever become the ‘Law of the Land’ (dena d’malchutah dena). RWAC posits his usual erudite and academically well informed reasons for his opposition to rabbinic government over a secular society. My reasons are neither well informed nor reasoned. Mine are based exclusively on my personal experiences with the attempts of rabbis to function competently in the realm of authority and leadership. They’re good in and for schul. I have never encountered better ba’alei tzibur than the rabbis I’ve encountered. They are excellent teachers of Torah, both scriptural and Rabbinical (of course), and some for personal counseling (yechidus) What they don’t seem to do well is govern – they don’t appear to be well tuned to the secular world. I’m talking frum rabbis jadies and jents, not the secular rabbis of the Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist movements.

I’m pro-haredi for Israel. Israel’s government and society seem to have lost sight of the meaning of living Jewishly, but the frum crowd can’t govern. They just don’t know how. And here in America? America isn’t a Jewish country; we have no State religion, so there is no issue here. Replacement of Federal and State law here in America, applied exclusively to members of the Jewish community, would be disastrous. Judaism works when it’s voluntary. Coercion always leads to disaster.

They’re All Gone

by: Schvach Yid

All of us old enough to have watched TV in 1972 remember those indelible words spoken by Jim McKay of ABC’s Wide World of Sports on September 6, 1972, as he announced the murder of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes by followers of a subsidiary of Yasser Arafat’s PLO, Black September, in - Munich Germany (surprise!).

The fallen Israeli Olympic Games heroes aren’t alone in being ‘all gone’. The destruction of Jewish culture as well as population is a determined goal of the Palestinian rank and file, as well as of their Moslem religious leadership.

I came across a ditty of Jewish cultural beauty and pride that has been lost to Arab Jew-hatred, displayed as the banner on the home page of Kesher Talk ( The original piece has been lost to Arab vandalism.

There are other losses to our cultural heritage, provided courtesy of Arab Jew-hatred. The Biblical Archeology Review, founded by Hershel Shanks, reported years ago about the demolition of King Solomon’s stables and the dumping of the destroyed structures into a garbage heap outside the Temple Mount. There are lots of other examples of the deliberate murder of Jews and the destruction of all things Jewish by the Arab hoards.

Israel wants peace. Too bad - it’s not available. Today, 35 years after the horrendous tragedy in Munich, the government of Israel is negotiating talks with one of the former leaders who conspired to produce the Munich Olympic massacre, and is very busy conceding to the demands of that person, and others, as preconditions for some as yet undetermined future benefit for Israel. The demands for Israeli concessions that are made today are the same as those made back then. Nothing has changed – even the Palestinian leadership is the same, minus one. A little oxygen, please (very little, it appears)! Just as soon as the Israelis get it, they’ll stop catching it – get it? I wish the current leadership in Israel would!

I apologize for the absence of pics, but Blogger seems to have gone apoplectic today!

Monday, July 16, 2007

What’s Wrong With This Picture?
by: Schvach Yid

I know, I know! Aside from the intended homicidal crime that’s about to be committed by that ‘chap’ with the lighted match, the background extras tell the whole story. The next time you hear an apologist for the Palestinians, or for the Arab Moslem world in general, crow that the Arab terrorists are few and that the overwhelming majority of Arabs are good peace loving people (Alan Dershowitz’s line in a CNN interview), just show him/her this photo from Arutz Sheva’s web site. The crowd of spectators – don’t bother telling me their not full-fledged supporters – remind me of the chazerim in my neighborhood who fire off fireworks to celebrate various American holidays (like, in my mailbox, even), except for the fact that the attempt at the murder of Israelis that is intended by this rabble of Jew haters is no game. Here in America’s it’s called coming out for the team; over there, in Gaza, it’s called Islam.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Friend in Need Should Not Be Conned

by: Schvach Yid

Maybe we Jews don’t understand. I doubt it, but there are those in the Evangelical community who say just that - we Jews are lost, or that we Jews have lost our way.

Pastor John Hagee, founder and leader of the Cornerstone Church of San Antonio Texas, I think said it best in one of his televised sermons, something like ‘the Jews wrote the Bible, both their Torah and the New Testament’ (not a verbatim quote). That we wrote the ‘NT’ and reject it as scripture should announce plenty to the world that insists we Jews are off target. If we really wrote the ‘Gospels’ and their subsequent writings and reject them, then there’s significance in our decision to have done so, and it’s not that we fail to understand our own writings. Don’t the proselytizing evangelists think we understand our own literature?

Shelley Neese has recently contributed an article to the Opinion section of Arutz Sheva titled: The Rise of CUFI, which can be found at:

CUFI is an acronym for ‘Christians United For Israel’, and was founded by John Hagee. The gist of the article, and of my TV viewing experiences concerning this matter, is that American evangelists are on the side of Jews and Israel, without any attached strings. Well, not quite. Chaptzem read of John Hagee’s recently published book Jerusalem Countdown. Sorry, you’ll have to purchase it. It’s not available as a free download, unlike, for instance, Tzvi Fishman’s book Secret of the Brit, which is one of Reb Fishman’s literary attempts to get Jews off our chazerish sex kick and back on the ‘straight and narrow’ concerning our comportment, in public and in the bedroom.
His book can be found at:

Back to the evangelists. Their shtick is proselyzation – that’s what evangelist means!
Look it up in a dictionary. It means to proclaim, spread the ‘word’ and convert. And let's not forget the Southern Baptist Convention. A baptist is a person who baptizes, as in 'John the Baptist'. A person who is baptized is called just that - baptized. These groups have adopted names that describe exactly what they and their intentions are, or as Rabbi
Moshe Cahana is reputed to have uttered back in the days when he served as the chief of intelligence of the Irgun: ‘The darkest spot is right under the lamp’ (The Revolt by Menachem Begin, Nash Publishing, 1977 ed.).

Everyone needs friends. We Jews and Israel need all the friends we can muster, but a con artist is no friend. No one wants or needs to be treated like a fool. I’ve heard some of Pastor John Hagee’s presentations on TV delivered as sermons to his flock in San Antonio Texas. He had a two part series on Israel and the Jews. It was all very supportive. No effort at conversion was made. Then I popped into a bookstore and gave his book Jerusalem Countdown a nice long going-over; after all, a sales pitch for the book was made by the author following his televised sermon, not from the pulpit, but as a – well - separate commercial. He’s proselytizing jadies and jents. And his other sermons I’ve heard tell it all.

So what can I say to Pastor John Hagee other than ‘thank you for being you – you are loved’, and not because he thinks we Jews need a good straightening out, but because of the work he has done in making the lives of the Yiddin living in San Antonio more bearable. The American Bible Belt isn’t exactly ‘Jew friendly’. I live in the American Bible Belt – don’t ask! Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg has headed Congregation Rodfei Sholom in San Antonio for the past ’34 years’ ( Rabbi Scheinberg appeared with Pastor Hagee on a TV stint where the Rabbi thanked the Pastor for the Pastor’s efforts in helping to make the presence of Jews more acceptable to the general San Antonio community. Most of those folks are undoubtedly good ole evangelists. Nice!

After reading her article The Rise of CUFI I emailed Shelley Neese. Here it is (these people get me steamed):
Sorry, but I had a long look at Pastor Hagee's book 'Jerusalem Countdown', and I've listened to some of his sermons delivered in his church in San Antonio that have been televised in America. I don't buy the seeming risk-free offer. Evangelical love for Israel may be unconditional, but the long range goal is obvious.
By the way, a CUFI is an article of head apparel worn by Moslem men.
Lastly, it's high time the Christian world buried its anti-Jewish hatchet, as long as it doesn't do it in Jewish skulls. I welcome Christian friendship and support;
Israel and Jews worldwide need all the friends we can muster. Living in America's Bible Belt I've encountered no minor amount of overt Jew hatred, both in speech and deed, and in this regard, the work done by Pastor Hagee in San Antonio in his effort to make life for the Jews of that city more bearable has been exemplary. Thank you for your support and for your very well written article. Just don't screw it up. On my next visit to Israel, I don't want to be greeted with Christian crosses everywhere. Israel is supposed to be the Jewish Homeland.The Jewish Homeland should not only be Jewish, it should look Jewish as well. It's just a fingernail clipping of a country, and as such, leaving it to Jews should not pose a problem for anyone, except of course those who can't stand us, or who pretend to be what the Bible says of Jews. In your land I think it's called replacement theology. I have no idea what Islam calls it. In the Land of Israel it's called domination. And the next time I visit Meggido, I don't want to be greeted with the oration of an evangelical preacher. Please don't get me wrong, I don't consider myself a bigot, it's just that we have had enough! Please knock it off already!

And thank you for being you. You are loved!

Well, ‘that’s all folks’ (my apology to Mel Blanc formerly of Warner Brothers, may he rest in peace).

This Shabbos is not only Shabbos Matot-Massei, it’s also Bastille Day, so ‘go out there’ and let that special someone in your life know exactly what you think. It’s not the guillotine, but who wants that headache?

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Power of the Web Compels You
by: Schvach Yid

Like a successful exorcism, I’m back, and I feel great. Am I a cyber-spook or what? My comment to Yo Yenta’s blog has mysteriously and generously reappeared. Thanks Yo! I feel reborn, reinvigorated, I feel - like a mensch again, and to celebrate, here is a bumper sticker suggested by Steven Plaut on Arutz Sheva’s website:

Bored Again Jew
by: Schvach Yid

I’ve just had my keester kicked off Yo Yenta’s blog site ( as a commenter; I don’t know why, but things happen, so there! Hers is my absolute favorite blog site and where I’m not wanted I can’t comment, and that puts a damper on things.

Is there a remedy? Maybe – I’ll try commenting here. The Yenta’s blog in question concerns the decision of Pope Benedict to reinstate (or permit the reinstatement of) the traditional Catholic Latin mass (Mel Gibson’s favorite, or so he said, I’ll have you know)that lambasts Jews for our lack of belief in the Church’s savior (sorry, we received nothing from Hashem about this matter at Mt. Sinai all those millennia ago). In response to that, I commented something like this:

Thank you, I’ll stick with the Aleinu that appears in the ‘rite’ of the Spanish and Portuguese
Jews, according to R’ David Desolo Poole of Congregation Sheareth Israel on W70th Street in NY.

The references therein are taken from Isaiah, and long precede the events and characters given in the ‘Gospels’.

Also, about the remarks concerning Abraham Foxman – not enough good things can be said about him. Mr. Foxman has been a ceaselessly valiant advocate of Jews the world over who has spent his adult life battling Jew hatred. He’s our version of Superman (how appropriate, since Superman was created by two Jews).

Have a look at Yo Yenta’s blog.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Treading Water in the Intertidal Zone
by: Schvach Yid

In an earlier blog entitled A Yeke’s Tale I discussed my cousin, one generation younger than I, who is Jewish and Black. She has been very fortunate to have grown up in the current age of personal liberation and societal support most of us enjoy in America. She’s the only member of our family of her generation who is Jewish and female, and therefore the only one who can pass on our family’s Jewish identity.

She’s family gold, and she's beautiful to boot!

The development of a high self esteem and ease with one’s identity has not always been a matter to be taken for granted; in fact, in our society here in America, it has only recently
become a right to live one’s life free of the harassments that can obstruct one’s personal development. The difficulty with self acceptance is sometimes exacerbated in individuals of ‘mixed’ backgrounds, what is currently referred to in politically correct terms as ‘mixed race’. A recent episode on CNN hosted by Paula Zahn explored this matter in Asian Americans.

Back in the old days, when I grew up in the 1950’s to 1970’s, we summered in a bungalow colony in the Catskill Mountains of New York. This has already been referred to in the earlier blog When Be’ezrat Hashem Became Baruch Hashem. There, my closest companion, an age peer, and I hung out together incessantly. Our favorite pastime was hunting snakes. As we grew older, we parted company, and once we were in college we completely lost contact. Then, a bit later in life, in our late 20’s, we restarted our friendship.

My summertime childhood friend had become a pharmacist and had left his native Brooklyn NY, first moving to Vermont, and later to Virginia. On one of my jaunts to his home in Vermont, he showed me a collection of doodles he had done – several sketch pads of cartoon-like drawings. Most were grotesque figures of mutilated bodies. One was more sophisticated – a well thought out piece on which he had evidently spent some time.

This one had a title, Self-Portrait, and consisted of a portrait of a Black chassid with exaggerated facial features: a large bridgeless bulbous nose, thick lips, kinky hair, kinky peyos (side locks), a kinky beard, and a yarmulke. As I viewed this picture my friend screamed niggarrrrr. His effort to inform me went right over my head, again and again.

As the years passed, we got together on occasion, and each time he hurled some hint or another about black identity, and each time I responded with oblivion. In addition he frequently referred to his Black friends, about his love of basketball and his participation on his former high school’s basketball team (which he described as functioning more like a street gang).

When we were children we only saw each other during the summers in the bungalow colony. He lived with his parents in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn. We lived in Queens – by New York standards, light years away, but my paternal grandparents lived in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, and so despite our New York provincialism, I prevailed on my parents to drop me off at my friend’s home so the two of us could spend the day together.

His parents had a family photo gallery on one of the walls of their apartment. The whole mishpocha was there, except for his paternal grandfather. So I asked. ‘We don’t show his picture; he raped my grandmother’. Okay, I was 10 or 11 years old. What did I know, but by the time I finally caught on I was in my 30’s!

His father had served in the US Army during the Second World War. When he was drafted he had already completed a year of college. He identified himself as Jewish, and off he went to Officer’s Candidate School, and to Europe. By the time he was discharged at the conclusion of ‘hostilities’, he had commanded a Howitzer unit as a 2nd Lieutenant in the ‘Battle of the Bulge’ in Belgium.

He was dark skinned, but not black; his hair had tight waves but wasn’t kinky. He was Black and Jewish, but passed as a Jew. In the ‘Human Stain’ mentality of that day, to thieve the title of Philip Roth’s novel on the same subject, he had escaped the hatred commonly dolled out to people of his background. And that ‘Human Stain’ mentality was passed on to the next generation – his son, my friend. And I was oblivious, and utterly uniformed, about my friend’s pain. His efforts to connect with me on this matter were met with indifference. Who knew? Who suspected? Who cared? I didn’t select my friends on that basis.

I can only speculate about his father’s pain, about his efforts to maneuver his way through a bigoted society. In the US Army of the Second World War, Black soldiers were treated rudely. The celebrated Tuskegee Airmen are an exception to the usual rule of the menial function to which these solders were obligated. My friend’s father, who could believably claim to be something else, had a better, non-offensive existence as a serviceman.

My college-era girlfriend had a similar background. Her physical appearance announced Polynesian, perhaps, but she and her family made no bones about their Black identity. Bravo!

Her father had grown up in Louisville Kentucky as the child of a ‘mixed race’ marriage; her mother was White. My girlfriend’s father was drafted into the Army and, as a Black man, was duly dispatched to the Army’s facility in Tuskegee Alabama, where he spent the war as an MP and drill sergeant. He only on occasion mentioned his service in the military. His statements were terse and uninformative, but the resentment and anger in his voice provided all the information one needed. He had been dumped on – royally.

Well, why write about all this history? Because, jadies and jents, the commemoration of a historical event is only one and a half weeks away, and I can’t wait. It’s my favorite day of the year, previously written about in my blog BYOK. It’s the National Holiday of France (no, I’m not a Francophile) – Bastille Day. Revolt is wafting in the air, at least in my immediate space, and the above related tales of personal doubt and triumph incite a strong desire toward rebellion. But I’m a reticent type of Joe, so I’ll keep my place. When it rolls around on the Shabbos after next, think about striking a blow for personal liberty and self esteem. And don’t take any merde – from anyone.