Tuesday, July 27, 2004

snack time

After Maariv tonight the shteible put out some food: cake, cookies, herring, OJ, even some sctoch. I've never seen this before. It isn't done in proper shuls. The question is why?

I asked around and the boys said this was a common practice. They all grew up in shteibles, and they all saw it at the end of every fast. What do you think this says about the shtiebles? Positive? (so heimish, so friendly) or negative? (they make their wives wait, and dont have the dicipline to wait until their home)

Cunning Right Hand

We've been to weddings. We've heard the song.

Im eskokaych Yerusalayim tishkach yimini.

Or, in the official translation: "If I forget thee Jerusalem let my right hand forget her cunning.


Per the dictionary:

Marked by or given to artful subtlety and deceptiveness

Usage: an aptitude for attaining some end by peculiar and secret means. Cunning is usually low; as, a cunning trick...A cunning man often shows his dexterity in simply concealing.

Is this what the Psalmist meant? Is this even what the translator meant?

Moreover, when I translate the words myself I get something like: "Forgeting Jerusalem would be like forgetting my right hand."

What do low and deceptive tricks have to do with it?

Odd moment at the convention

In his speech Gore, decrying the 2000 election, asks, "Did you get what you expected from the candidate you voted for?" "NOOOOOO!" the delegates shout. Um, excuse me, but isn't this the Democratic National Convention?

And, if as I suspect, they all voted for Gore, who exactly are the delgates insulting?


Ok, I am a little bummed. Nothing happened on T'Bav?

Monday, July 26, 2004

No wrong way to eat

How come sometimes I get a reccess peanut butter cup that has two cup-wrappers?

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Unholy Table Manners

We often have guests for shabbos lunch, and occasionaly an RN slips through the rigorous screening. Though I think they enjoy the food and the conversation, here's a brief list of things they don't like.

1 - I sit for kiddush
2 - I don't put a few drops of water into the wine bottle before I pour the wine into the kiddush cup. And if the wine is any good, I don't let the RNs do it either.
3 - My shabbos lunch kiddush consists of one posuk: "kee shayshes" and one bracha "boray pri hagofen" Nothing more, nothing less.
4 - I do not pre-cut the challa loaf before saying the brocha.
5 - I pour salt on the sliced challa directly. I do not put the salt on the table, and then dip the bread into the salt.
6 - Sometimes my wife sprinkles the salt on the challa, if I am slicing the loaf too slowly.
7 - We don't always serve fish

Other than these 7 abberations, I think lunch at my house is pretty traditional. We sing zmirot. The kids irritate and annoy. And my wife does most of the work. Just like our ancestors, no?

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Yeshivish Jewish History

Z is an older guy, who is easy to like. We go to the same chumash shiur. For some reason, the discussion turned to Rashi's interpretation of the word "chamushim" in the beginning of parshas b'shalach. Though Rashi gives several translations for the word "chamushim," the only one everyone remembers is "one fifth" as in "one fifth of Israel left Egypt, the rest died during the plague of darkness."

I suppose I should have kept my mouth shut, but I didn't yet write for a blog. In retrospect, I could have countered with the other explanations Rashi provides, but instead I went with a doubly obscure Ibn Ezra (why doubly obscure? Well, first because it is the Ibn Ezra, after all, and second because this particular comment does not appear in the Mikraot Gedolot. When I went looking for it, I discovered it's in another version of the Ibn Ezras chumash commentary)

Anyway, regarding chamushim=one fifth, the Ibn Ezra begins by saying (as he often does) "if this is a midrash we'll accept it" and then delivers a laundry list of arguments against the midrash. In this case, among other things, he didn't like the math, he didn't like the idea that 3 million Jewish men could die during the plague without this small fact being recorded in the Torah, and he thought it was odd that the Jews would have been so, well, joyfull at the Exodus if 4/5 of their community had recently been annihilated.

When I finished recounting the Ibn Ezra, Z looked at me and said (I swear I am not making this up) "Wow. How does the Ibn Ezra learn Rashi?"

I swear I was so shell shocked I almost fell off my chair.

Luckily, the Rabbi leading the shiur kept his wits about him, and gently let Z, an alum of the very best Brooklyn yeshivot, in on the little-known facts that (1) the Ibn Ezra was dead before Rashi was a glimmer in his mother's eye (2) they were both Rishonim, and (3) the whole chamushim=one fifth wasn't Rashi's idea anyway. It is a midrash.

Now if only I could get the Rabbi to stop saying "Evan Ezra."

A Hats Halachic Style

The RNs tickle me. Not literally, of course. But in a safe, sane, and purely metaphorical manner.

Just recently I was speaking with J, a fine boy with a regulation haircut and a properly brimmed hat, who takes pains to stress, in proper religious fashion, that his highly-paid vocation is "just a job" and "not a career." We were at Mincha, on Shabbas afternoon, and J thought the blue shirt I was wearing deserved a comment.

Now, Mincha chatter is seldom noteworthy. In the whole history of the republic I doubt anything important has ever been said at Mincha on Shabbas afternoon. But I think this took an interesting turn.

J: I see you're wearing a blue shirt.
Me: I see you're not wearing a tie.

And so on, until:

Me: Let me ask you this: I see you are wearing a hat and a jacket but no tie. Why does the tie come off before the hat? Shouldn't it be the other way around?
J: Well, a tie is just style. A hat is brought down in halacha.

Thankfully, I left it there. Instead of responding, I thought: I don't need to make my case in the middle of shul. I'll use my blog. So here goes:

1 - The Mishna Berurah tells us in 91:12 that during prayer we are required to wear a hat because it isn't normal to stand before an important person without one. A strong argument can be made that today we are not required to wear a hat during prayer because today it is quit enormal to stand before an important person without a hat (most people speak to their rosh yeshiva bareheaded, and no one approaches the president or a king with a hat on.)

2 - Even if this is a requirement the halacha would not require us to wear a black, Barcelona hat. any other hat would be sufficient.

3 - The phrase "brought down" is absurd. It's used to suggest that though all the halachas were known to all the original sages, some were not revealed until a later authority"brought it down." If it's true that the hat was "brought down" then it must also be true that all the original sages wore hats. Sadly, hats, as we know them with brims and shaped crowns, did not exist until rather recently. And if we say that the word "hat" is subjective, and it refers to whatever people happened to wear their heads in those days (a turban for the Rambam, a rag-like kefiya for Moshe Rabbenu) we're right back where we started: No one wears hats today.

4 - Agreed, a black hat is not "stylish" in the sense of Milan or Vogue Magazine, but if everyone is wearing them the reason, most likely, is style.

I hope J can find a moment during his busy job, but not a career, to read this.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Mini Boycott Cooper

I would like to own a Cooper Mini but I fear the contempt of the RNs. Do my RNs oppose stylish, yet affordable, cars? Yes, judging from their own choices. But the German-Mini-connection might trouble them more.
I do try to boycott the Nazis like a good member of the horde. But it gets so confusing. Are Minis out? They're owned by BMW (Bavarian Motor Wee-hicles) but during the war, the Cooper people were on our side.  Should I buy my Mini as a show of thanks to the brave British lads who fought alongside the allies during World Was II? Or, should I boycott them because some of the profits of my purchase might end up in the bank account of a person of German descent? Can I go to Disneyland, ifI know that someone named Horst is on the Disney Board? What if my 401k owns real estate in Munich? Should I divest? Where is the line, assuming there is a line?
And I have a related question: How can Jews  fight terrorism?  Though I think the current approach (talking about it during chazeres hashatz) is swell,  I'm not seeing good results. Maybe we should "ramp up" and discuss it during Torah reading, too? Or perhaps  the answer is to boycott SUVs.

Though I can't prove it via a clever hyperlink, I suspect that some of or oil comes from Arab lands. I further suspect that some of the money we send to Kuwait in exchange for oil tankers ends up in the wrong hands.  So, wouldn't it help -- even a little bit - if we stopped buying cars that yield 3 miles per metric ton of gasoline?

What do you think? Should we continue making a Firm Point for Decency and Jewish Pride by boycotting Becks beer,  or perhaps we ought to reconsider those cars that are roughly the same size as minor aircraft carriers, too?

Excerpt Re: The Role of Cognitive Schemas in Reinforcing Biased Reactions

One might suppose that schemas that repeatedly lead to mistaken conclusions about cause and responsibility would gradually disappear through a process akin to natural selection. Under such a theory, experience would lead people to distinguish over time between "bad" and "good" schemas and abandon use of the former. In fact, cognitive research suggests otherwise. Researchers associate schemas with the cognitive bias known as the conservatism bias. 24 This link implies that schemas are strongly resistant to cognitive change. Indeed, the evidence indicates that as people employ schemas more frequently, they become more resilient to inconsistent evidence. 25 If I have been taught that priests are saintly men who do not indulge in the vices that plague the rest of us sinners, I am not apt to reject or even amend this prior knowledge when I encounter a priest who smokes, drinks alcohol,  [*773]  or tells off-color jokes. Rather, I am likely to regard this individual as a deviant from his role. Labeling him a deviant reinforces the underlying schema.Experimental research indicates that ego-involvement is a principal source of the conservatism bias. 26 The ego, acting as an organizer of knowledge, encodes and manages information in a highly selective fashion that confirms what is already known. The ego acts to preserve itself by protecting the integrity of its existing organization of knowledge. The conservatism bias to which ego-involvement contributes is evident in a wide variety of common social practices, ranging from Americans' resistance to adopting the metric system to refusals to admit errors in one's memory. The effect of this bias is that once the ego has initially encoded and organized the knowledge, it tends to strongly resist change.
Interesting, no?

Friday, July 16, 2004

Bitter Neighbors

The religious neighbors are also bitter about the political influence held by the ultra-religious neighbors. The RNs may not like hedonism and homosexuals, but they've aquired a fondness for trees and grass. The URNs want more houses. Lots of them. One on top of the other. And, they will get them because, like Vito, they carry the local politicians in their pockets, like so many nickels and dimes.

After Marc Rich, a few acres of housing is cake... or kugel, anyway.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

That Slate Test

I took this test, and on the second try turned up blue. Thank god. I am too old too learn how to pick my teeth with a switchblade.  We live in New York, a glorious freedom-loving state that is blue as can be. This political fact bothers many of the religious neighbors, who associate blueness with hedonism and homosexulaity and europeans who canoodle with Palestenians.   The religious neighbors are upset that here, in New York, their votes in national elections are meanigless. That gets a thank god, too.

The problem with Bush...

The problem with Bush might not be that he's a "lying weasel," who traded away our nation's prestige for a bag of chips. And it might not be that he's an utter fraud (my apologies to any of you who thought he was a self-made millionaire and also a cowboy, born and raised on the hardscrabble Crawford ranch.) The problem might be that the intelligence services misled him. Do we want a president so easily duped?

Wednesday, July 14, 2004


This link has been added to provoke protests from the one, lonely Bush lover that visits this site.

Piazza's revenge?

This is what happens when your catcher calls nothing but fastballs down the middle.


I watched Ken Jennings for the last two nights on Jeopardy. He passed 1 million dollars last night on his 30th appearance.

The guy is a machine. He reminds me of Rosie Pereze in "White Men Can't Jump" when she was on Jeopardy with the category "Foods That Start With The Letter Q". Answer, question, answer, question, boom, boom, boom.


Saturday, July 10, 2004

Best sport cheers

The votes are in, and the finalists are:

1 - Buy a Porche Potvin Buy a Porche

2 - Let's Go Mets (heard in MSG during a particularly dismal Ranger season)

3 - Let's Go Home ((heard in MSG during the same particularly dismal Ranger season)

4 - "Where is your navy? At the bottom of the sea" (a reference to the Falklands War sung by British fans when their club faces Argentina)

5 - Two World Wars and One World Cup - doodah, doodah (used by British soccer hooligans to taunt German soccer hooligans. Refers to the fact that England beat Germany in the 1966 World Cup final, in 1944 at the second war to end all wars, and in 1917 at the first war to end all wars. Typically, the British forget they had help, from a hometown ref in '66 and from the Yanks at the previous two contests, but it's still a great chant. The chant brings to mind a great line, attributed to Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, who upon being told that Germany had defeated England allegedly replied, "They may have beat us at our national game, but we beat them twice at their national game in the 20th century.")

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Too Far On-Star ?

This morning I heard a truly terrifying radio ad for OnStar, the concierge service that offers drivers 24-hour assistance and information. Like all the other OnStar spots, we hear an "actual call" between a driver, and an OnStar operator. It goes something like this:

Woman: (hysterical screaming) My husband was driving in the car next to mine and his car went off the road!! Oh my god oh my god!

OnStar operator: (concerned) I'll connect you to emergency services.

911 operator: 911, Can I help you?

Woman: (Slightly panicked) My hunsband's car went into the water!!

911 operator: Ok, help is on the way.

[Announcer talk for a few seconds about OnStar always being there "when you need it."]

OnStar operator: (still concerned) Is there anything more I can do.

Woman: (resigned? disapointed? Not sure, but certainly calmer than she was a moment ago, but with no sound of relief in her voice) Thank you for waiting with me. I really appreciate your being here.

[More blather from the announcer]

My question: Did the woman's husband, um, die? Let's reveiw the facts. The woman went from wild hysteria, to pure panic, to calm resignation in what couldn't have been more than a few moments. However long it was, Emergency Services have not arrived by the end of the spot; the woman is still "waiting." Oh, and her husband and his car went underwater.

I thought the whole thing was pretty creepy - unless the OnStar people want you to know that grief counseling is yet another of their many services. All in all, an ad that makes you go ew.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Welcome to the Three Weeks 2004

My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west--
How can I find savour in food? How shall it be sweet to me?

How shall I render my vows and my bonds, while yet
Zion lieth beneath the fetter of Edom, and I in Arab chains?

A light thing would it seem to me to leave all the good things of Spain --
Seeing how precious in mine eyes to behold the dust of the desolate sanctuary.

-Yehudah Halevi, c 1141

The Veep Choice

Ok, so one of the talking ditto heads on Fox News (we seig, you heil) thinks Kerry's VP choice constitutes "another Kerry flip-flop." The reason: Just months ago, Kerry said he didn't think Edwards had enough experience to be President of the United States.

Would someone please let this lady know that Bush's résumé was even thinner when he ran for president, that he had less foreign policy experience than Edwards does now, and that Bush is still(!) unfamiliar with the nuances of most policy debates.

Jeb Bush was also heard saying that he doesn't think (yes, I know. He should have stopped there) that he doesn't think the American people will vote "for a ticket as liberal as Kerry/Edwards."

Has he forgotten Gore/Leiberman received more votes from the "American people" than his brother? Even old George McGovern received several million votes when he suffered the worse defeat in history. Who casts all these votes if not "American people?" Space aliens?

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Lies My Rebbe Told Me

What's this? A provocatively titled feature, here at the JewZoo? Actually, it's our way of introducing something new and exciting. We're compiling a list of Jewish urban legends, and we'd like you to join the fun. As the title of this article suggests, we're not looking for popular stories that non-Jews tell about Judaism, but for stories that Jews tell each other. To qualify as an urban legend, the story must be demonstratively false, or you must be able to cite at least one Jewish authority who didn't accept the story. To get the ball rolling I've posted two examples in the comment section. To play, hit the comment button and add your own.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Saddam Hussein

I like his new look very much.