Monday, December 29, 2008

אבי-גדור קיבל תורה מיצחק

At the risk of sounding involved in Ashkenazi geneology or something (which I'm not!), I was just thinking after I mentioned Rabbi Yisrael "Salanter" here, how Rabbi Avigdor Miller could trace himself back to Rabbi Yisrael's teachings:

1. Avigdor Miller was a student of Isaac Sher,

2. Issac Sherr was a student of Natan Tzvi Finkel,

3. Natan Tzvi Finkel was a student of Simcha Zissel Ziv,

4. Simcha Zissel Ziv was a student of Yisrael "Salanter".

5. Yisrael "Salanter" was a student of Zundel "Salant",

6. Zundel "Salant" was a student of Chaim "Volozhin",

7. Chaim "Volozhin" was a student of the "Vilna Gaon"!

So any student of Rabbi Miller's is therefore (obviosly) able to trace back that tradition of teaching to the famed "Gaon" of Vilnius.

?המוסר דוחה את התלמוד

If one wishes their edifice to weather the external elements --both the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter-- the key is fortification. For what better method is there for ensuring the safety of ones foundations from any storm that may come? Yet without it, ones sanctuary can become filled with all the evil that may lurk from without.

[It's said that Rabbi Yisrael Lipkin (of Salantai) was approached by a man who had only half an hour a day to study (Torah), and wanted to know what subject to delve into. Rabbi Yisrael answered that he should study "מוסר", for it will inspire him to make more time for himself to study other things.]

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Reality Addiction

It has become evident to me, upon verbal investigation (chatting) that the gentleman who sits next to me during English class leads a Rock-music band called “Reality Addiction”. Personally I quite fancy the name, being that it’s curiously taunting in a way, being that few people are "addicted" to reality (quite the opposite usually).

(He wouldn’t be the first musically inclined individual I’ve known though; I roomed once with a fellow named Spitz who also runs a band, and my friend Yosef Chaim Shweky (brother of Yaakov) is producing an album of his own)...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Request! - Modesty

1. Sources

We find the Hebrew root “צ.נ.ע” twice in the Bible; once in Micha (6:8) and once in Proverbs (11:2):

1. הִגִּיד לְךָ אָדָם מַה טּוֹב; וּמָה ה' דּוֹרֵשׁ מִמְּךָ, כִּי אִם-עֲשׂוֹת מִשְׁפָּט וְאַהֲבַת חֶסֶד וְהַצְנֵעַ לֶכֶת עִם אֱלֹהֶיךָ

2. בָּא-זָדוֹן וַיָּבֹא קָלוֹן; וְאֶת צְנוּעִים חָכְמָה

In both places it means to be secretive about ones good deeds, and not to be overly flamboyant. That meaning has lasted through to the Talmudic usage - much as the meaning of "modest" in English connotes the opposite of “proud”.

There has been somewhat of a change in the usage of the word in Midrashic, and later in Talmudic literature to mean modesty in an erotic sense. For example אלעזר בר צדוק is quoted as saying (in Sukkah 49b) that this verse (1.) explains three of the most important facets of Judaism, and in regards to “הצנע לכת עם אל-היך” says this part of the verse is really discussing the need to accompany the dead, and accompany a bride. He adds though “if the Torah tells us to act modestly for things which people usually do publicly, how much more so should we be ‘modest’ in regards to things that are done in private”.

It’s also important to remember though, that 1. Halakhah as we know it is somewhat of a "created" thing, being that the Halakhic codifiers had to sift through the entirety of the Tanach and Talmud and piece together little statements, and many times just inferences, and many times what we called in my yeshiva “unnecessary inferences” (inferences that aren’t the only possible thing that can be inferred). And 2. There’s no ‘מצווה’ of 'צניעות'. It’s something that’s (like I said about hair-covering for a woman) expected of women, and especially of a Jewish woman.

In Iraq, in the era in which the Talmud was written, there was honestly not much of a problem in regards to tzniut; the norms there were obviously much more "conservative" then they are now. So all you’re going to find in the Talmud are statements like “one should not pass by when women are washing clothes in the lake” or “one should not watch a woman weaving” etc. Most of what we 'know’ about the halakhot of tzniut come from statements like that.

2. Modesty in Dress

First of all, some parts of the body are usually covered anyway, so the main concerns among the Orthodox Jews are the covering of the upper arms, legs, and neckline (an issue less necessary of concern among Orthodox Jews are the back, cleavage and belly).

In regards to wearing a skirt instead of pants: 1. Some see it as a transgression of "No male article shall be on a woman, and a man shall not wear a woman's garment", 2. The Talmud says it's better for a woman not to ride a horse (seemingly because it will cause the shape of her legs to become more evident when separated), so that could also translate to not wearing tight pants. Though in that case a tight skirt/dress is just as bad, and either way; it's unusual for a woman not to wear pants in most parts today. Either way; women who wear pants should obviously not be treated as if they're not part of the Jewish (or Orthodox) Community.

[I think the clearest example of learned and pious Jews who are somewhat lax in these areas (where the husband doesn't wear a head covering and the wife doesn't have a hair covering and wears pants) is Sefaradim in South American countries; I've met a lot of them, and many of them are just as 'pious' as any New York Kolel couple.. ]

About the covering of the upper legs and arms: Like I said, one of the major logical sources is that the Talmud says that washing clothing and weaving (by a woman) are seen as things which should be done in as private a setting as possible, being that parts of the upper arms and legs might become exposed in the process.

About head covering: There has always been somewhat of a difference of opinion about "פריעת הראש"; does it mean ‘untying’ or ‘uncovering’. For example it says "even an unmarried girl shouldn’t have her head ‘פרוע’ "; some strict opinions say this means even an unmarried girl should cover her hair, and some say it means her hair should usually be tied. (See Rambam source).

It’s important to note that according to these standards there’s nothing better about wearing a blouse and long skirt to a jeans skirt and tee-shirt (for example). There’s no source, therefore, for Orthodox girls to just dress really "fancy" or however one would term current ultra-orthodox dress. If anything there have been contemporary national-religious rabbis in Israel who say that sometimes “too much tzniut can lead to a lack of tzniut", something I see as very true. Not to mention concentrating on such things too much (instead of Torah and mitzvot) can lead to too great a concern for sexually oriented matters.

It should be mentioned that men must also practice modesty in clothing, and women must also not ‘gaze upon immodest men’, etc..

3. Other Interpretations

It should also be mentioned though that some (Reform and some Conservative Rabbinical authorities) see these Talmudic standards as having only been applicable to Jewish women when that is what the standards of the times were, but now that the standards have changed the Talmud would agree there’s nothing wrong with a Jewess in a short sleeveless dress when the weather makes it necessary, and such a thing is not seen by anyone as breaking any barriers (though the growth of the Muslim community as well as a new stress on modesty in dress among the Evangelical community could still change those standards again). (See Ritva source).

4. True Modesty
According to all opinions though a real problem has developed in 'our' communities, which, in a way exists among females in the Ultra-Orthodox community just as much as it does with the males, and that is; "depending on your clothing to be religious for you". It’s not just about "women dressing modestly", it’s about "everyone being modest", not just in dress, but in action; in all areas of life. Women should obviously be a little more modest than men, but it is applicable to both sexes obviously).

Much of what "צניעות" should (still) be about is doing all actions in a refined, restrained, chaste and modest manner- even things like speaking and putting on ones shoes, and definitely things like how one walks, laughs or bends over (when necessary) in a public place (among a myriad of other examples).
Some practical examples of this type of behavior:
It says in Genesis; "And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent", which shows Sarah didn’t go out for no reason. Similarly the pasuk in Psalms 45:14 "כל כבודה בת מלך פנימה, ממשבצות זהב לבושה" ("The king's daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold") is used to suggest that a woman shouldn’t go out much. Though there's also the issue with the "אשת חיל" in משלי who seems to be very outdoorsy,'s complicated...still needs looking into...
Also, it says that רות (and רבקה) bent in a restrained manner to pick things up.

Another example is is ישעיהו's rebuking Judean women for walking in 'too arousing' a manner (Isaiah 3): "Moreover the LOR"D saith, because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet; therefore the LOR"D will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LOR"D will discover their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, the chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, the bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, the rings, and nose jewels, the changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins,the glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails. and it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty." (Some even use the examples given in this verse to represent what shouldn't be worn by a woman).

It also says in the Talmud, for example, that a Roman soldier once took interest in a Judean girl because of her elegant manner of walking (so we see that one should refrain from such a mannerism).

To conclude, I should mention that רש"י on the first page of מסכת סוטה explains the גמרא as saying “The modest woman ends up with the ‘righteous’ husband, while the immodest woman ends up with the ‘wicked’ man as a husband”.


5. Rabbinic Sources

Some surprising Rabbinic Sources I’m too lazy to translate in the meantime:

1. Rambam:

ואלו הן הדברים שאם עשת אחד מהן עברה על דת משה--יוצאה בשוק ושיער ראשה גלוי, או שנודרת או נשבעת ואינה מקיימת, או ששימשה מיטתה והיא נידה, או שאינה קוצה לה חלה; או שהאכילה את בעלה דברים אסורים...ואיזו היא דת יהודית הוא מנהג הצניעות שנהגו בנות ישראל ואלו הן הדברים שאם עשת אחד מהן עברה על דת יהודית: יוצאה לשוק או למבוי מפולש וראשה פרוע ואין עליה רדיד ככל הנשים אע"פ ששערה מכוסה במטפחת או שהייתה טווה בשוק וורד וכיוצא בו כנגד פניה על פדחתה או על לחיה, כדרך שעושות הגויות הפרוצות, או שטווה בשוק ומראה זרועותיה לבני אדם או שהייתה משחקת עם הבחורים או שהייתה תובעת התשמיש מבעלה בקול רם עד ששכנותיה שומעות אותה מדברת על עסקי תשמיש או שהייתה מקללת אבי בעלה בפני בעלה.

2. Ritva (kiddushin 81b):

דהכל כפי מה שאדם מכיר בעצמו אם ראוי לו לעשות הרחקה ליצרו עושה ואפילו להסתכל בבגדי צבעונין של אשה אסור. ואם מכיר בעצמו שיצרו נכנע וכפוף לו ואין מעלה טינא כלל, מותר לו להסתכל ולדבר עם הערוה ולשאול בשלום אשת איש…

3. Yichiel Mich’l Epstein (ערוך השולחן):

"מותר להתפלל ולברך נגד ראשיהן המגולות, [= של נשים נשואות] כיון שעתה רובן הולכות כך, והוה כמקומות המגולים בגופה"

4. Yichiel Yaakov Weinberg (שרידי אש):

"מ"מ הסכמנו כולנו, שבחירת הנשים היא נגד מנהג ישראל ונגד המוסר הישראלי בחיי הציבור, שהשתדלו תמיד לשמור על כבודה בת מלך פנימה, שהאשה הישראלית תשמור את ביתה ואת חינוך ילדי' ואל תהי' קולנית ויוצאנית, לפזר כוחה ולהרוס צניעותה, ולאבוד את חינה וטעמה על ידי ריב ומדנים פוליטיים וציבוריים"

5. Yoel Sirkish (ב"ח):

"אבל אם לובשין כדי להגן מפני החמה בימות החמה ובימות הגשמים מפני הגשמים אין שם איסור"

Monday, December 22, 2008

Between Christmas and Hannukah

[Here in the Judeo-Chrisian world] The dead of the winter somehow seems like a time when everybody gets closer to their peoples histories and ideologies: Both the Jews and the Christians celebrate holidays of identity in the winter, and in a way they're exact opposites, yet in a way they're actually kind of similar.

We Jews celebrate a holiday which in essence is a celebration of Jewish reconquest of Palestine from people who's ideologies were pretty much the opposite of the monotheistic ethic, as well as the rededication of our Temple upon the removal of Zeus-worship from within it.

European Christians celebrate a holiday which is supposedely commemorating the greatest manifestation of the Divine in our world, which was to become a beacon of light to Mankind hencefourth. In essence though the holiday is just 1. nordic winter celebrations, and 2. a late Christianisation of the Roman solstice holiday, which is obviously a form of worship to Jupiter, which in essence is just Latin for Zeus, who again, was the god who's removal from the Temple we're celebrating!

What I ffind to be a very difficult subject, is: what aspects of "Greek" culture are objectivly positive, and what aspects are utterly rejected by the principles of Judaism? I mean, I know that public nudity, body-worshiping and infanticide are 'not cool', but the Greeks also brought almost every aspect of knowledge and science into the world, so...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Lomo on Chanukah - '08

Sorry, my internet wasn't working for a few days, though there were a few things I wanted up here..another time perhaps. ...what was it I was supposed to write about? ..Oh yes, Hannukah.

One thing about Hanukkah which I think is clearly agreed upon across the spectrum of ways of understanding it, is that Hanukkah is ‘commemorating’ two things, and the amount of import one places on either reason classifies their understanding of it (in a way), though even within these two reasons for commemoration there is much disagreement as what exactly about these events is worth commemorating.

These two commemorations are obviously for either the great victories the Judeans wrought on the Seleucid Greek armies, and the subsequent liberation of Judea and of Judaic ethical monotheism from their hands, as well as the ritual and political purification of the Temple from foreign control, or the miracle of the oil for the Temple’s perpetual lamp (lighting more than physically possible) which ensued (huge run-on, I know). The Baraith’a, which primarily quotes the "oil miracle" is somewhat representative of the more Religious spectrum , while the Book of Maccabees, the "The Scroll of Antiochus" as well as the more well known prayer (“A’l Hanisim”) which all commemorate the military victory are usually the aspect more commemorated by the more ‘Nationalistic’ elements among us.

To me it is unquestionable that both extremes are somewhat erroneous; the significance of the ‘miracle of the oil’ aspect, and what it should mean to us should not be under-emphasized, yet the military/political victory should certainly not be understated.

If so, a very brief restatement:

‘Oil miracle’- I do not feel that stating something like “the menorah was nothing more than the Jewish nationalistic symbol” is unfounded, but for what reason was it our symbol if not for the elements of light and ritual purity inherent in it? I do not feel that anybody is of the opinion that the Priests felt it so overbearingly important to reconstruct and rekindle the Menorah with specifically ritually pure oil (which was not a halakhic necessity) only to replace some symbol of National unity. There is no question that to them the speedy relighting of the Menorah was representative of the ethical and cultural victory they had won against the Greeks. That could and should be a lesson to us today- for even those among us with the longest and blackest of coats, and the furriest of hats has the most despicable of Western/American ideals in their hearts (myself, obviously, very much among them). The lesson of the purpose of the Divine radiance shown to our ancestors at the Temple should serve to bring well needed ‘mind over matter’ ideals to our spiritually-starved souls.

The ‘War miracle’ as well, though, cannot be overlooked; yet for what did those agrarian Judean ancestors of ours fight, if not to cleanse our land –G-d’s land— from the most objectionable of Greek ideologies and practices being shipped into Judea. This victory created a situation the Judeans had not known in their recent past, and have not known since—full autonomy in their own land.

This is going on too long, is it not? ..not my style…it is not without need of editing though..

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Apartheid Occupation

From purely historical perspectives (not overly coherent):

First of all, the Dutch and British had no "legitimate" reason to be in South Africa, and therefore had no right to conquer the land and greatly mistreat the natives. They weren't "persecuted" in Europe, they were just colonizers. The Americans say their Puritan founders came to the New World as a result of English persecution, but the reality is that few Puritans came. The majority were just money hungry Northern Europeans (around 60% of American "Whites" are of German decent by the way).

The Israelis are not colonizers, but rather were actually the victims of real persecution, who were just returning to their home they were unjustly evicted from. It could be in the long run the logic behind that can be found to be a bit faulty, but it is a much better excuse than any other colonizing nations have. (If anything America has stood far more guilty than any other colonizing nation; the only reason they aren't criticized is because they are THE power at hand (and because most of their native victims are far too dead to criticise American policies).

This, I feel, is analogous to the plight of the bastard; he has no legitimate place in the world because he was created by an action that had no "right" being performed. So too situations created as a result of unjust activities cause turmoil. The Judeans should never have been exiled from Judea, and the Jews should never have been forced out of the (European) Diaspora by the nations. But both injustices have occurred, and that creates the unanswerable situation of us and the Native Arab people living in the same place (though honestly, such conflicts arise anyway between borders of rival states, but not to this degree).
[I know, I know, I've restated points like these on this blog a million times already, I feel like Arafat talking to the UN! Whatever, another few times wouldn't hurt anyone!]

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Only Di 'Lomo...

...smashes his head by biking directly into a gate..(may even need a bit of stitching)..

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Just one more thing!- It's unfortunate that the modes of dress for women (in the West) today have been influenced by fashion standards that see looking "sexy" as an ideal. For what is "sexy"? "Someone you'd consider having sex with"? Someone "sexable" (i.e. someone who embodies 'sex')? Is that at all any standard to be basing influences in dress?

Arab. Dress.

Oral Hygiene

יצה"ר בא לו לאדם בטענות שוא, והגיון שגוי. תמיד אומר הוא לו על כל מצוה או מעשה טוב כי קיימת אפשרות לעשותו "מחר" ו"מחר". כנגדו בא הלל ואומר "אם לא עכשיו אימתי?" י

ועוד בא לו יצה"ר לאדם בטענה שמעשים אשר יועילו לאדם לשמור על גופו באופן תקין וסביר לאורך זמן מומלצים, אבל אינם בגדר "מעשה טוב" או "מצוה". כנגדו בא הלל ואומר לגבי הליכתו למרחץ "הולך אני לגמול חסד לגופי". י

The 00's

There have been many decades in America (and the world for that matter) that were representative of certain eras and movements. The 'roaring twenties', the 'war years', the 'baby boom' and 'the 60's' for example. Sometimes I wonder what moods might one day become representative of the 00's (as in from 2000 to 2010). It is my opinion that this decade will stand out as one in which America has become more aware of Islam and the Middle East. It has also, therefore, inspired a much greater interest in religion in general than has been in previous decades.

[I should mention, by the way, that my mother has an opinion about 'decade movements' in America during the past century which I have adopted; it is her opinion that the movements we associate with certain decades really started during the second half of the decade. For example 'the 60's' as we know them, 'really' started in the late 60's. Therefore 'Islamic awareness' as well really started already by the late 90's.]

בְּחָכְמָה יָסַד אָרֶץ

The longer I am confronted with this existence that I have been placed within, the longer I perceive evidenced the notion that there is nary a worthwhile engagement, or even pastime, that does not require a reasonable amount of 'learning' (in a 'modification of behavior' sense) in order for them to be properly performed. We must learn to do everything. Even the most instinctual and base necessities of Man as food consumption, sexual intercourse or even sleep involve much training for if one is to become successful at them. How much more tutelage is required for things of worth, such as those that require University attendance, and that may be beneficial in finding employment. From properly hunting and gathering, to riding bicycles to studying Accounting, our world is a world of activities that require practice to perfect, and that also necessitate one to be well informed.

It has always been my opinion that people are far too accustomed to the way the universe and the world seem to have been constructed, that they do not usually ponder the fact that in the G-d-model our souls could have been placed in any number of situations to surround us. And one aspect of the one that was chosen is one which reflects an emphasis in education for the sake of action, and an ethic that we see G-d considers as important in His saying in the first chapter of the Bible "אשר ברא אלו"הים לעשות".