Friday 28 February 2014

Stalin and a Modern Purim

There is a tradition in the Hasidic Chabad movement that supposedly Joseph Stalin died as a result of some metaphysical intervention of the seventh Chabad leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, during the recitation of a discourse at a public Purim Farbrengen.[60] Stalin was suddenly paralysed on 1 March 1953, which corresponds to Purim 1953, and died 4 days later. Due to Stalin's death, nation-wide pogroms against Jews throughout the Soviet Union were averted, as Stalin's infamous doctors' plot was halted.[61][62]
Purim - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Best Regards,

Thursday 27 February 2014

The Issue in Arizona

I have been paying some attention to the issue in Arizona regarding the conflicts of freedom and rights between the religious community and the LGBT community. While I theoretically understand the problem, I find the specific issue itself somewhat unclear. The nature of freedom should be that, in generic, terms, I am allowed to be me -- unless my being me infringes on the right you have to be you. What exactly is the nature of this law? What is the case whereby one being himself/herself infringes on the other being themself? And what is the case that demands this law because what is occurring is the opposite?

Of course, this law was going to fail for it wasn't really structured well -- although the underlying issue indeed has to be addressed.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Rabbi Hecht in The Jewish Voice

Just wanted to let everyone know that I will now be sending in material to The Jewish Voice in New York. For the first of my articles there, please go to Parshat Pekudei - THE CLOUD

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Nishma-Parshah: Pekudei and Shekalim

Take a look at what's on
for Parshat Pekudei and Parshat Shekalim

Parsha: Shekalim, "Shekalim vs. Terumah"

Pekudei: The Cloud

Parsha: Tetzaveh, "Sh'qalim and Zachor"


Give Little Sisters of the Poor a break: Column

«Sister Mary Grace visits with a resident at an elderly home run by Little Sisters of the Poor in Denver last month.

Friday, the Supreme Court gave the Colorado-based Little Sisters of the Poor a reprieve in their battle over the Obamacare contraception mandate. While the Sisters' case is on appeal, the government must cease demanding that the nuns sign a form they say violates their religious beliefs.»

Kol Tuv,

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Genetic Roots of the Ashkenazi Jews

«The new findings contradict previous assertions that Ashkenazi mitochondrial lineages originated in the Near East, or from mass conversions to Judaism in the Khazar kingdom, an empire in the north Caucasus region between Europe and Asia lasting from the 7th century to the 11th century whose leaders adopted Judaism. "We found that most of the maternal lineages don't trace to the north Caucasus, which would be a proxy for the Khazarians, or to the Near East, but most of them emanate from Europe," said coauthor Martin Richards, an archaeogeneticist at the University of Huddersfield in the U.K.»
Genetic Roots of the Ashkenazi Jews | The Scientist Magazine®

Kol Tuv,

Women and tefillin - The Jewish Standard

Jewish Standard:
«Though he believes that it is acceptable for women to wear tefillin, Rabbi [Joel] Roth said, "I make no claim that women ought to or must wear tefillin.

*I am only saying that if women want to, I see no halachic objection.* »


I'm wondering out loud -
aren't the objections of EG:
Maharam Mirothenburg
Kol Bo
Magein Avraham
Mishnah B'rurah
Kaf Hachaim
Not to mention the Girsa'ot found in P'sikta as quoted by Tosafos
and the Yerushalmi as quoted by the Beiur HaGRA stating "Michu bah Chachomin" constitute at least SOME Halachic objection?

Or is he saying, that he see no Halachic Objection means that he did not see the above sources and therefore from what he DOES see, there is no objection?

Or ???

Kol Tuv,

Monday 24 February 2014

Insights from the Institute R Mordechai Frankel, Star-K Kashrus Administrator

Insights from the Institute
Rabbi Mordechai Frankel, Star-K Kashrus Administrator

Q:  Does bishul akum apply to food cooked in a microwave?
A:  Before answering this question, we must first address whether or not the use of a microwave would be defined by the Torah as cooking.  Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt"l,1 was asked whether the Torah prohibition of cooking on Shabbos applies to cooking in a microwave.  He answered that, although cooking by the heat of the sun is not considered a violation of the Torah prohibition of cooking, this is due to the fact that it is not a standard method of cooking.  However, nowadays a microwave is an effective and commonplace way of cooking and, therefore, would be considered a Torah violation on Shabbos.  Based on this, it would seem that using a microwave would also be considered cooking in regards to the prohibition of bishul akum.»

«Q:  Does a bike shed need a Mezuzah?
A: The Torah commands a Jew to affix a mezuzah to the doorpost of his house,8 as well as the doorposts and doorways within the home,9 with the exception of the bathroom.10  There is a discussion in the Gemora and Rishonim concerning whether this obligation extends to the doorpost of a barn, chicken coop or grain silo.  The Shulchan Aruch paskens that these locations do, indeed, require a mezuzah.11  Reb Akiva Eiger understands that one should make a bracha when putting up a mezuzah at these locations.12  Other Achronim, however, feel that because this halacha is debated in the Rishonim it would be preferable to put up the mezuzah without a bracha.13  In a case where the grain silo was attached to the house, all agree that the mezuzah on the silo door should be put up with a bracha.14»

Star-K Kosher Certification - Kosher Consumer

Kol Tuv,

Woman Leaves her Marriage and Her Frumkeit

«It was best not to speak of such things. Amid the vast number of religious rules, there were other ones, enforced not by God but by the community. I learned to swallow dissent. To observe the rules was to be good, and to be good was to be loved. It was what let you stay inside a community, surrounded by family so that, if the world's spinning were halted for one moment, and a finger placed on one small spot, you could say: I belong here.

I stayed inside. I followed the rules. I got engaged at the age of 22, after a blind date and a dozen weeks of dating. I was a senior in college, he in law school. We were of the same world, and fell quickly, easily in love. Nowhere was there room to say, I don't yet know myself, let alone you.»
Divorced From My Husband, and My Faith -


Kol Tuv,

Sunday 23 February 2014

World Day for Social Justice: Facing the Reality of Poverty Among Us

In recognition of World Day of Social Justice, last Thursday, United Chesed of Toronto put up the following post 
on their blog at This is important reading for all of us.
United Chesed is dedicated to assisting the 22,000 Jews living in poverty in the Greater Toronto Area. I am proud to say that my daughter, Dodi-Lee, is their Operations Manager.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Judaism and Victimhood

I was once asked
"Does the Jewish Mantra of Suffering actually ATTACT victimhood by means of the Law of Attraction?"

Maybe it's time to "Accentuate the Positive and Eliminate the Negative?" 

«Yet at the same time there seems to be a different reputation we have made for ourselves. In his New York Times bestseller Born to Kvetch, Michael Wex portrays Yiddish culture as one of disapproval and complaining, peaking with the statement that "Judaism is defined by exile, and exile without complaint is tourism." This perspective does not need to remain confined to the era of our exile. A simple look at the Bible shows that, both in the desert and in the land of Israel, the Jewish people are often discontent (e.g. Ex. 14:11-12,16:24-25, 17:2-4).

How do we reconcile the powerful contradiction between the strong positive imperative Judaism dictates and the longstanding practice of disapproval? How do we explain the paradox between the strong ethic of thanks, gratitude and appreciation Judaism so strongly advocates and the Jewish tendency toward disapproval and questioning?»
Born to Bentch: Judaism and Positive Psychology | Torah Musings

Kol Tuv,

Friday 21 February 2014

Judaism and Positive Psychology

«One of the most important modern discoveries in the rapidly expanding field of Positive Psychology is recognition of the benefits of gratitude. »
Born to Bentch: Judaism and Positive Psychology | Torah Musings

Kol Tuv,

Thursday 20 February 2014

Women's Tefillin - R Shlomo Brody Responds to R Ethan Tucker

«According to approach #3, women are exempt but may be allowed to wear tefillin. The sources that use this model report conflicting traditions about the response of the Sages to Michal's actions. The Mekhilta states that the Sages did not protest, while the Yerushalmi and the Pesikta record that position as well as an Amoraic position that the Sages in fact reproved Michal.

I stress the importance of this schematization because contrary to the impression given in the essay of Rabbi Tucker, the dominant position within the Talmudic literature – and particularly within the Babylonian Talmud, the accepted authoritative legal text of the halakhic community for well over a millennium – is that women can indeed don tefillin, either out of obligation (model #1) or out of choice (model #2). Even in model #3, the fact that both positions are recorded suggests that they were reached for reasons independent of the Talmud Torah – Tefillin connection.»
Women and tefillin: A reply to Rabbi Ethan Tucker | Shlomo Brody | Ops & Blogs | The Times of Israel

Kol Tuv,

R Ethan Tucker - Women Wearing Tefillin

«The Mekhilta makes a number of key points. First, it anchors the exemption from tefillin in an exemption from the obligation to study Torah. [This same linkage is affirmed on Talmud Bavli Kiddushin 34a.] This is the first thing we must understand: Tefillin is not a mitzvah anchored in prayer; it is a mitzvah anchored in the obligation to learn. Perhaps more powerfully: those who wear tefillin are entrusted with a microcosmic Torah that they place on their bodies. It doesn't make sense for someone who does not share equally in the burden of the intellectual and spiritual core of Torah study to be obligated in its physical corollary. If that wasn't clear enough, the final line of the Mekhilta passage above emphasizes that learning Torah and wearing tefillin are essentially the same thing; indeed, one who is truly learning is exempt from wearing tefillin while doing so!»
Gender and tefillin: Possibilities and consequences | Ethan Tucker | Ops & Blogs | The Times of Israel

Kol Tuv,

Wednesday 19 February 2014

The Jewish Press: The Pew Study and Zionism, the Inconvenient Truth, by R Elchanan Poupko

«What was lacking on all sides of the discussion, however, was a frank consideration of what we might learn from each other.

Conservative and Reform leaders have by and large failed to acknowledge the great success of the Orthodox model, nor have they exhibited any desire to come closer to the successful Orthodox approach. In fact, not a few spokesmen for those movements sought to rationalize and downplay the terrible news about the weakening of Jewish identity and the sky-high rate of intermarriage.

But there was something missing in much of the Orthodox response as well; namely, the continuing failure, particularly in haredi circles, to acknowledge that the study served to clarify the importance and centrality of the state of Israel to a healthy Jewish future. 

While there is no question that (whether they'll admit it or not) most American Orthodox Jews, haredim among them, are committed to the well being and continuity of the people and the state of Israel, many haredi leaders and organizations have for decades been inclined to view Israel in a far from positive light.

Be it the secular nature and outsize influence of the kibbutzim, the hostility of the dominant socialist political parties, or the lack of a strong institutional Torah infrastructure – all phenomena of the state's early years that have long since gone by the wayside – many haredim came to regard Israel with suspicion and even outright hostility, especially regarding any matter touching on religion. The farther to the right one moved on the American Orthodox spectrum, the more prevalent the belief became. And that attitude generally remains in force.»
Printed from The Jewish Press » Blog Archive » The Pew Study and Zionism: the Inconvenient Truth

Kol Tuv,

Tuesday 18 February 2014

R Ben Blech on Nazi Collaborator Benjamin Murmelstein

«There is no doubt that aiding an evil to subvert a greater evil cannot leave us unstained by the crime committed, no matter how noble our intentions. Murmelstein understood that when he referred to himself as the last of the unjust.»

Nazi Collaborator or Hero? Nazi-Collaborator-or-Hero. html?s=show

Mobile Site

Kol Tuv,


By Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz
Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation Chicago, Illinois

Open Orthodoxy has taken the Jewish world by storm.  The recent call by its progenitor for the Chief Rabbinate of Israel to take a "pluralistic" view of conversion, acceptance of the conversions to Judaism performed by all denominations of Judaism, has evoked a great deal of critiscm among the ranks of Orthodoxy.  May I suggest that there is an overiding issue for all Jewry to consider when evaluating the merits of this burgeoning movement in American Judaism or any Jewish religious movement for that matter.  I believe this issue has been lost in the many critiques of Open Orthodoxy grounded in Halachah, Jewish law.  This issue is, for me, the foundational issue when considering any approach toward Torah observance.

"This, however, does not mean that we are not permitted to try to elicit the moral and philosophical teachings inherent in the Halachah; indeed, we may even be obliged to do so… The opposition to such speculation, to which the author refers, was of course due to the fact that some people, in the name of the Rambam and after, let philosophical interpretations affect  halachic decisions, or even used them to play down halachic considerations altogether. This attitude is wrong even if the philosophical interpretations in themselves represent sound Torah doctrine; and it is even more disastrous if the philosophical ideas are at variance with it. Yet this approach is fundamental to Conservativism (Reform altogether rejects Halachah); and has unfortunately affected some prominent modern Orthodox writers, (see Rabbi Emanuel Rackman, "Sabbath and Festivals in the Modern Age," and studies in Torah Judaism, editor, L Stitskin [New York: Yeshiva University Press, 1969], whose thrust is summarized by the editor: "observances and mitzvot…must be related to some metaphysical construct and a set of values in order to be meaningful" and must be developed in the light of these insights. Rabbi Rackman himself states that "the modern Orthodox would like to see more halachic decisions that include consideration of the teleology of the Commandments and not just the formal rule" ["modern orthodoxy"]."

This quote by Rabbi Joseph Elias in his comprehensive commentary on the "Nineteen letters" by Rabbi S.R. Hirsch is an attempt by the author to bring further clarity to Rabbi Hirsch's critique found in his eighteenth letter regarding the Rambam's utilization of Greek and Arab philosophy in explaining Judaism.   Writing in 1979, Rabbi Elias encapsulates a problem that has grown ever more acute during the last nearly half a century.  To understand this more fully consider this statement of Rabbi Hirsch found in the forward to his magnum opus, Horeb.   "There will be two schools of study engaged in the exposition of the Divine law…One school will concern itself with the comprehension of the utterances regulating our practical conduct… and its knowledge will be derived almost exclusively from the tradition which transmits the oral and written Divine utterances and the regulations of the Sages. The other school will concern itself with reflecting on and pondering these laws, and its sources of knowledge will be the more or less illuminating power of insight which dwells in each individual religious thinker... All that springs from the second school has no power to bind and can claim recognition only in so far as it conforms with what is contained in the work of the first school… The first school serves as a standard regulating the second."   Rabbi Hirsh, the standard bearer of German Orthodoxy in the nineteenth century, had to contend with a Reform movement that, even many years later, presenting its view of Judaism in the Pittsburgh Platform of 1885 still viewed the moral and ethical laws of Torah as eternal and binding.  "…We recognize in the Mosaic legislation a system of training the Jewish people for its mission during its national life in Palestine, and today we accept as binding only its moral law, and maintain only such ceremonies as elevate and sanctify our lives, but reject all such as are not adapted to the views and habits of modern civilization."

Today we are confronted with a Jewish American community that has largely accepted the ever evolving philosophies of society regarding morals and ethics. For example:   1-equality = sameness - This rejects the concept of role playing as evidenced in Judaism by its assigning different tasks to the  individual by virtue of his\her age, sex and lineage,  2- sexual liberation – Understood as expressing and living out one's inner perceived feelings or lusts no matter how vulgar or bizarre, and expecting acceptance and endorsement by society as a whole, 3- honesty and integrity – Understood as having value and merit only in terms of  avoiding being caught. Once caught the individual is only required at best to utter a prefunctory mea colpa, to clean his\her ethical and moral life's slate anew, 4- Interpersonal relationships - evaluated by what one receives rather than by what one gives to another, 5- my body=my right – Juxtapose this classical pagan view with the Jewish concept which sees the physical body as a keli, a vessel loaned to us by G-d to "house" the G-dly element He "breathes" into us – the soul - and you have a clear understanding of the current conflicts in American society regarding, euthanasia, abortion, modesty in general and sexual modesty in particular, and a host of other issues.   I could go on and on.  Rabbi Hirsch would shed an ocean of tears for today's Orthodox Rabbi who must contend with this contemporary reality.   It is to me an imperative for the rabbinate in terms of the pulpit, ministry and education in general to accentuate at every turn the Divine nature of Torah. We must imbue within our community a sense of reverence and awe for the Torah as the instrument by which we, through its fulfillment, connect with the metaphysical, with the eternal, with the Divine; litrerally joining with G-d in the ongoing process of creation.  "for in His goodness he renews each and every day the act of Creation" (liturgy – morning service)  Too often even our coreligionists, as in Rabbi Hirsch's day, judge the Torah by its teological underpinnings as understood by human intellect.

Torah Lishma – Torah observed because it is the ultimate and absolute truth in life – the Divine Will, as our Chazal (Sages) teach us, is essential for today's Jewish community's spiritual devotion.  We must answer the Why-why bother, before we can even begin to answer the how-the particulars of Torah observance. And the why is answered by understanding that Torah observance is the only method available to the finite human being to be part of and even influence the infinite.   The main "calling" of the Orthodox Rabbinate in our day should be to  affirm in every way possible the Divine, eternal nature of Torah for the Jewish and general communities. Once understood, the true work of Tikun Olam, the establishment of a peaceful and functioning world, can become the dominant and positive collective effort of humanity as a whole.  

Monday 17 February 2014

Women's Aliyyot and K'vod Hatzibbur - 3

I would like to commend my Haveir R Michael Azose with Birkat Hazzaq uVaruch! For his patient assistance.
Note - this is not meant to imply that he concurs with any of my conclusions... :-)
* * * * *

Here is a summary of my approach.
For the sake of illustrating my method - let's set aside the BeHaG's Sheetah about women's obligation re: Megilat Esther. And so I am using the case of Women reading the Megilah to help illustrate the case of Women's Aliyot.
Q: May a woman read Megilat Esther for a man?
A: Yes - even as per Rashi and Tosafot, and certainly as per Rambam.
Note: There is also the potential- as per the sugyah in B'rachot - that "Tavo Alav M'eirah" would apply to this case as it does for Birkat Hammazon, but we cannot be certain....

Q: May she recite the B'rachah on Megillah for a man?
A: YES! But, as above, "Tavo Alav M'eirah" is even more likely to apply here re; the recitation of Birkot Megillah by a woman for a man, than just the reading of the Megillah alone would. Because B'rachot more closely resemble Birkat Hammazon as opposed to just reading Scripture.
Q: What about women reading Megillah for for a mixed Tzibbur?
A: Technically, a woman may, no doubt. However, here instead of applying "Tavo Aleihem M'eirah", we might choose to apply "It's Not K'vod haTzibbur" instead.
There are a number of possible reasons as to why we might shift the terminology in this case. The common concept, Tzad Hashevah, here is that both are technically permitted yet both are "frowned upon".
Now, let's address Women's Aliyot directly.
Model #1
Women's Aliyot were always technically permitted, and yet always had the problem of K'vod Hatzibbur. And so nothing has changed from day one.
Model #2
It used to be OK for women to get an Aliyah. However, in the wake of the Takkanah that added 2 B'rachot for each aliyah, a new problem emerged parallel to women reciting Birkat Hammazon for a man. In this model, it was these added B'rachot that first triggered the issue of K'vod Hatzibbur, just as Birkat Hammazon had previously triggered "Tavo Alav M'eirah" when a woman recited it for a man.

Kol Tuv,

Women's Aliyyot and K'vod Hatzibbur - 2

Source Material:
1. B'rachot re: a wife Bensching for her husband

מסכת ברכות פרק ג

דף כ,ב גמרא

ת"ש באמת אמרו בן מברך לאביו
ועבד מברך לרבו
ואשה מברכת לבעלה
אבל אמרו חכמים תבא מארה לאדם שאשתו ובניו מברכין לו

2. Re: Alliyot for Women

סכת מגילה פרק ג
דף כג,א גמרא 
ת"ר הכל עולין למנין שבעה ואפילו קטן ואפילו אשה
אבל אמרו חכמים אשה לא תקרא בתורה מפני כבוד צבור

Kol Tuv,

Sunday 16 February 2014

Awe in Mitzvot

To be honest, my daughter's recent Hollywood and Sinai review at got me thinking. We are commanded to perform various mitzvot but, in meeting these obligations, how often do we think about our ability to meet such demands? The very fact that there is a command immediately seems to imply that the ability to meet the requirement is inherent -- but is this necessarily so? Perhaps the real challenge of the command is to meet this requirement of getting ready.

This is perhaps what should really be the essence of the present debate over women and tefillin. While the issue does not exactly parallel this issue of mitzvah, it should cause us to reflect on this very issue. Women are not commanded in the mitzvah. What this should perhaps one to consider is the very challenge of the mitzvah. Men, who are commanded, must push themselves to meet the requirements even if they are not truly able. A woman has no such requirement -- so why push oneself to meet a challenge for which one is not ready. This is not to say that the men are; it just that men have to push themselves to do so. How often do men approach the putting on of tefillin with trepidation and awe in the chance that they really are not able to perform this mitzvah correctly? Do they have the choice not to then perform the mitzvah? No -- but the woman who refrains from putting on tefillin because of the trepidation and awe could remind us of this.

I compare this to the statement of Ramban in arguing that there is not Biblical mitzvah to pray. The Torah simply allows us to pray -- otherwise one would think it highly inappropriate for one to approach God with one's individual requests. Who are you to stand before the Almighty? The Torah thus says its okay -- but only after you recognize the awe-some ness of the matter.

Mitzvot are not like spiritual candy for one to get a spiritual lift. They are serious directives from God to be approached seriously with awe, trepidation and self-introspection of personal ability. This is important to recognize even as we feel we may have no choice but to perform the mitzvah now as best we can -- which we must still do. Be cautious, though, of extending it.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Women's Aliyyot and K'vod Hatzibbur -1


Partnership minyan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
* * * * * 

«Rabbi Daniel Sperber -
Rabbi Sperber agreed with Rabbi Shapiro's argument that the baraita in Megillah 23a indicated that the Sages instituted "we do not call a woman" as a later prohibition, and that calling a woman was originally permitted. »

«Rabbi Mendel Shapiro -
Rabbi Shapiro's analysis focused on a Baraita in the Babylonian Talmud stating that:

The Rabbis taught (teno) that anyone can be numbered among the seven [called to the Torah on Shabbat], even a minor, even a woman. But the Sages said that we do not call a woman to the Torah because of Kevod HaTzibur (the dignity of the congregation). (Megillah 23a).
Rabbi Shapiro's primary argument, based on the language of this baraita as well as traditional commentaries to it, was that women were only discouraged from performing public Torah reading based on a social concern for the dignity of the congregation ("Kevod HaTzibur"). »

I would like to expound on several Talmudic Passages

Just thinking out loud...

Let's say that at one time women indeed COULD have aliyyot. And that later on, it became Assur to do so -due to K'vod Hatzibbur.

So what changed? Could it be that it changed when Hazal introduced 2 B'rachot per Oleh, instead of just 2 for the entire Laining? K'vod Hatzibbur is thus a policy in order to avoid women saying B'rachot for men.


Part 2:
Some Talmudic Sources.

Part 3:
Expansion and Clarification of my approach, focusing upon Shas.

Kol Tuv,

Friday 14 February 2014

Hollywood and Sinai: August: Osage County

The latest installment of Nishma's movie review column, Hollywood and Sinai, is now available at our website.

To read Dodi-Lee Hecht's latest piece

To Be A Parent – The Unending Task
A Review of August: Osage County

please visit

Thursday 13 February 2014

Don't Overlook Purim Katan

It is the subject of the last simun in Orach Chaim:
Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 697.

Purim Katan Sameach
Rabbi Ben Hecht 

For Some, Halacha Makes Conceiving Tough

A somewhat interesting article about something that most do not know about. See

There is much to discuss on a variety of matters.  One should note, though, that the Halacha is not totally silent on this matter and there are other solutions offered by poskim including one from Rav Moshe Feinstein that lessens the necessary 5 day count from the start of menstruation prior to the counting of the seven clean days. As many women with this problem also have short periods this is viable solution.

Rabbi Ben Hecht 

Tuesday 11 February 2014

Jewish Tribune: The Motivation of Connection

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is noted for his solid support for of Israel. His commitment because of shared values must specifically be recognized.

For further on this, please go to

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Woody Allen Speaks Out

«TWENTY-ONE years ago, when I first heard Mia Farrow had accused me of child molestation, I found the idea so ludicrous I didn't give it a second thought. We were involved in a terribly acrimonious breakup, with great enmity between us and a custody battle slowly gathering energy. The self-serving transparency of her malevolence seemed so obvious I didn't even hire a lawyer to defend myself. It was my show business attorney who told me she was bringing the accusation to the police and I would need a criminal lawyer.

I naively thought the accusation would be dismissed out of hand because of course, I hadn't molested Dylan and any rational person would see the ploy for what it was....»

Woody Allen Speaks Out -


There are 3 versions to every story.
The 2 versions of the 2 litigants, and the truth

Kol Tuv,

Monday 10 February 2014

The Soda Stream Story

Can Private Enterprise Build Bridges, where Governments are building Walls?
Kol Tuv,

Prostitution in Canada

From Wikipedia

Prostitution in Canada is legal as there are no laws prohibiting the exchange of sex for money. On the 20th December 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada found the laws prohibiting brothels, public communication for the purpose of prostitution, and living on the profits of prostitution to be unconstitutional...
I know, as a Canadian, the discussion continues as to what will be -- but this is the situation as it is today.  It is something to think about -- what does it say about the social fabric of North American society? On the other hand, Rambam does state, in the Moreh, that prostitution is not a violation of the Noachide Code.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Sunday 9 February 2014

Two Types of Religious Hostilities

I was looking at the Pew Report on Religious Hostilities ( and something dawned on me -- there are really two distinct issues here. There is hostility toward religion in general and than there is a hostility toward a specific religion. The two are distinct because of the motivation. The former may be based on a challenge to the concept of a deity in general -- pitting atheist against theist -- while the second may be based on a challenge of one's religious views against another's -- pitting theist against theist. These are two very different constructs.

To be honest, I only briefly skimmed the report and I don't know if the report acknowledges this distinction let alone discusses it. I may only be highlighting something that is already identified. If not, though, it is something that does need to be. It impacts us in a very specific way for not identifying this distinction also does not identify any potential specific negativity in relating negatively to Jews.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

The Splintering of Orthodoxy - R Eliyahu Safran

«A leader without a community is a stray voice in the wind.  A community without a leader is little more than a mob.  The relationship between a leader and community brings to mind two stories.  The first is of a poor simpleton who was befriended by a millionaire lover of music who happened to have a private orchestra.  One day, the simpleton asked to be assigned a position in the orchestra. Astonished, the rich man exclaimed, "I had no idea you could play an instrument."

"I can't," the simpleton replied.  "But I see you have a man there who does nothing but wave a stick around while the others are really working hard, playing. His job I can do."

How many of us are like that simpleton, believing that leaders do nothing more than "wave sticks around"?  How many of us believe that it is only the orchestra, the community that does the work?

The second story also concerns an orchestra.  During rehearsal, everything seemed to be going perfectly.  Gorgeous music filled the hall as 150 skilled musicians responded to the maestro's guiding hands.  Suddenly, in midst of a fortissimo passage, the conductor rapped the music stand.  Music fell to silence.  "Where is the piccolo?" he demanded.

The piccolo player had missed his entry, and even in the exalted fullness of the orchestra's playing, the maestro heard what was missing. 

Trained, seasoned and sensitive leaders keep their eyes and ears attuned to the role and mission of every community member. Only when everyone plays together, closely watching and following the leader's direction, is there perfect harmony.

And such a performance deserves thunderous applause!»
Open Orthodoxy: How to Lead; How to Follow - Judaism - Israel National News

Ish, Kol Hayyashar b'Einav Ya'aseh 

Kol Tuv,

Saturday 8 February 2014

Mussar: Treat Your Spouse as Yourself

From Derech Emet -

Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky taught:
A person by nature does not
think about his own faults.  

He must think similarly of his wife
that she is the nicest, smartest,
beautiful, and perfect woman in the world. 
And she should have the same
thoughts for her husband.
[I understand this to mean that
since one tends to not find one's own faults
therefore one should treat one's spouse as faultless, too.]

Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzsky was a leading Orthodox Rabbi,
born in Lithuania in 1891 CE,
died in USA in 1986 CE.
Flatbush Hakhel Event Emphasizes the Importance of a Partnership by Daniel Keren,
The Flatbush Jewish Journal,
2014 January 16, page 58

Kol Tuv,

Friday 7 February 2014

Jew in the Box

I am not sure how to respond to this -- on many levels. What do you think of this?
Please see:

Does this objectify the individual, personal Jew?
What do you think of these individuals Jews speaking for Jewry and/or Judaism?

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Thursday 6 February 2014

Frum Divorce

Someone just sent me some information about this organization, specifically wishing to let me know, for purposes of distribution, of a Shabbaton they are sponsoring next week.

As I really know nothing about the organization -- only hearing about it in the last few minutes -- I cannot really give an opinion on it. There is a need, though, for such an organization and, as such, I felt I should, at least, let people know about it and this upcoming Shabbaton.

As such,please check out Frum Divorce at

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Rambam: Why is the Brit Milah on the 8th Day?

Guest Blogger:
David Joseph Mescheloff

The Rambam suggests
(Moreh, Part 3, near end of Chapter 49)
three reasons why berit milah is to be done on the eighth day (see below).
The third is so that it is before parents have bonded sufficiently with their new child to make cutting him unthinkable to them....
Here is what the Rambam wrote there:
שלמות המצוָה הזאת והנצחתה מתגשמות בכך שהמילה נעשׂית בגיל הקטנות. בזאת יש שלוש חוכמות80. הראשונה - שאילו השאירו את הקטן עד שיגדל, אולי לא היה עושׂה. השנייה - שאין הוא כואב כמו שכואב גדול, בגלל רכּוּת עורו ובגלל חולשת דמיונו, כי גדול חושב לנורא וקשה את הדבר שהוא מדמה שיקרה, לפני שהוא קורה. השלישית - שהוריו של קטן מקילים בערכו בשעה שנולד81, כי עדיין לא השתרשה אצל הוריו הצורה הדמיונית המחייבת לאהוב אותו; מפני שאותה צורה דמיונית גוברת רק על-ידי מגע ישיר. היא גְדֵלָה עם גדילתו. אחרי-כן מתחילה אותה צורה דמיונית לפחות וגם להימחות. שכּן אין אהבת האב והאם את הנולד בשעה שהוא נולד כאהבתם אותו כשהוא בן שנה, ואין אהבת בן שנה כאהבת בן שש. לכן, אילו השאירו אותו שנתיים או שלוש, היה זה מחייב ביטול המילה בגלל חמלת האב ואהבתו אותו. אבל בשעת לידתו צורה דמיונית זאת חלשה מאוד, ובמיוחד אצל האב שהוא המצוּוה בְּמִצְוָה זאת.
המילה היא בשמיני כי כל בעל-חיים חלש מאוד ולח ביותר בשעה שהוא נולד. כביכול הוא עדיין בבטן עד תום שבעה ימים. אז הוא נמנה בין מי שיש להם מגע ישיר עם האוויר. הלא רואה אתה שגם בבהמות הושׂם לב לעניין זה: [כן תעשֹה לשוֹרך, לצאנך:] שבעת ימים יהיה עם אמו; [ביום השמיני תִּתְּנוֹ לי] (שמות כ"ב, 29). לפני כן הוא, כביכול, נֵפֶל. כן הוא לגבי האדם. כעבור שבעה הוא נימול. הדבר הפך קבוע, ולא נתת דבריך לשיעורין82.
You can see this in context at:
Best wishes,
David Mescheloff

Kol Tuv,

Wednesday 5 February 2014

M'tzitzah B'Feh Controversy

N.Y. newborn contracts herpes from controversial circumcision rite February 2, 2014 12:16pm

«(JTA) — A newborn in New York contracted herpes from a controversial Jewish ritual circumcision rite.

The baby boy is undergoing treatment for neonatal genital herpes, according to the Forward, contracted through metzitzah b'peh, in which the ritual circumciser places his mouth directly on the child's circumcision wound to draw blood away from the cut.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issued a health alert about the baby's case on Jan. 28. The baby was treated for the genital rash five days after his circumcision.

At least 11 boys contracted herpes from the practice between 2004 and 2011, according to New York City health officials. Two died from the disease and two others suffered brain damage, the officials said.»
N.Y. newborn contracts herpes from controversial circumcision rite | Jewish Telegraphic Agency


RCA Position Statement on M'tzitzah:

Many Jewish legal authorities have ruled that direct oral suction is not an integral part of the circumcision ritual, and therefore advocate the use of a sterile tube to preclude any risk of infection. The RCA has gone on record as accepting the position of those authorities. Nevertheless, the RCA respects the convictions and sensitivities of those in the Orthodox Jewish community who disagree with this ruling and joins in their deep concern about government regulation of religious practices. The RCA urges these groups to voluntarily develop procedures to effectively prevent the unintended spread of infection. "

Kol Tuv,

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Sages of the Talmud

New Search Tool

Sages of the Talmud | Search Page

Kol Tuv,

Can the Holocaust be told using just one word: Jew? - Rabbi Benjamin Blech

«it is beyond my comprehension to become aware of an attempt to tell the story in a way that echoes the very crime it is meant to condemn, in a sense to perpetuate the mindset that permitted the Shoah to happen.

The book is predicated on a gimmick. In its 1250 pages, there is no plot, no narrative, no characters and in fact no words other than one. The word is "Jew," and it is repeated six million times. That is all. Nothing else.»
Six Million Jews

Kol Tuv,

Monday 3 February 2014

Loans and interest in Judaism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wiki Link -
The prohibition that a Jew should not charge a Jew interest on a loan and the practicality of this prohibition in a modern world, three answers by Rabbi Samuel Barth, Rabbi Richard Wolpoe, and Rabbi Laura Geller

Looks like. I finally made it to Wikipedia - in a external reference.

Alternate JVO link for Smartphones

Kol Tuv,

The Late Pete Seeger and Yiddishkeit

«In 1950, Seeger and his vocal quartet "The Weavers" hit the charts with "Tzena, Tzena, Tzena," an arrangement of a Hebrew song written in 1941 by Issachar Miron (born Stefan Michrovsky in Poland) and Yechiel Chagiz. The original lyrics went, "Go out, go out, go out, girls, and see soldiers in the moshava (farming community)." In the Weavers' version, the words describe joining a celebration, dancing a hora, and otherwise feting the new statehood of Israel. Then, in key moments for the assimilation and acceptance of Israel in American culture, Lee Hays, the Arkansas-born cavernous bass singer of the Weavers, would step forward and warn the audience that they would be hearing the original words in Hebrew. Seeger, slim as a whippet in middle age, would step forward picking at a banjo and in a New England cracker-barrel accent, sing the folksiest Hebrew imaginable.

Seeger was backed by two other singers in the Weavers who were born closer to the idiom: Ronnie Gilbert (born 1926) a creamy-voiced contralto with the earth mother quality of a soloist in a Slavic choir, natural enough considering that her parents were East European immigrants, garment workers who settled in New York City. The fourth member of the Weavers was Fred Hellerman, born in Brooklyn in 1927 to a Latvian Jewish family. Of the Weavers, Hellerman would have the most lasting artistic ties with Jewish culture, later conducting two hit albums, "Theodore Bikel Sings Jewish Folk Songs" (1958) and "Theodore Bikel Sings More Jewish Folk Songs" (1959). It was Hellerman who suggested the group's name, after a 19th century play by the German author Gerhart Hauptmann about an 1840s uprising by Silesian weavers worried about being replaced by mechanization during the Industrial Revolution.f»
Pete Seeger's Yiddishkeit –

Kol Tuv,

Sunday 2 February 2014

Yeshiva University News » Seforim Sale 2014

«Students Present Seforim Sale February 3 to 23; 
North America's Largest Jewish Book Sale will Benefit Victims of Sandy

The students of Yeshiva University will present their annual Seforim Sale, North America's largest Jewish book sale, from February 3 to March 3 in Belfer Hall, 2495 Amsterdam Ave on YU's Wilf Campus in Manhattan. The sale—operated entirely by YU students—supports various initiatives, including student activities on campus and undergraduate scholarships.»

Kol Tuv,

On Changes to Halachah, and Minhag

There is a phenomenon or a pattern that seems in vogue in many circles nowadays, especially those who see Judaism as a set of Holy Tomes..

Here is an illustrative story -

Once upon a time, an intelligent Jew named "Adam" was marooned on a desert island. Adam missed intellectual stimulation. Miraculously, someone parachuted to him a library of solid, classic Halachic texts, Shas, Rishonim, etc. Adam - having no distractions - went on to master these texts and became an expert poseik. Eventually Adam got wi-fi and people started emailing him questions and he gave answers based upon solid sources.

Assuming was both intelligent and intellectually honest, what's missing from this process? Wouldn't expertise on Halachic texts be sufficient to become a world-class poseik?

Kol Tuv,

Saturday 1 February 2014

Mussar: Satan and Political Correctness

The Sheidim were in a PANic

Sheidim: with this political correctness, we have no more fun. There is no one left to HATE! EG No More:
1. Racial Hatred
2. Ethnic Hatred
3. Gender Hatred

We can no longer make fun of the handicapped and the disadvantaged, those who look different, the obese, etc. All are now vigilantly protected! We're almost completely out of the HATE business!

Satan: Not to Worry. It's still politically correct to hate -
1. Traditionalists
2. The wealthy, the privileged, the "1%"
3. The Religious, especially the right wing Religious
4. The Politically Conservative, Republicans in the USA - especially Sarah Palin, Dick Cheny, George W. Bush - the Tories in the UK, the PC's In Canada, etc.

Thank the Devil - there are plenty of people left to bash and to demonize!

Kol Tuv,