Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Women of the Wall, and throwing esrogim

The confrontations at the Kotel reminds me of this gemara in Succah 48:
THE ONE ON THE WEST WAS FOR WATER. Our Rabbis taught, It once happened that a certain Sadducee poured the water libation over his feet and all the people pelted him with their ethrogs. On that day the horn of the altar became damaged, and a handful of salt was brought and it was stopped up, not because the altar was thereby rendered valid for the service, but merely in order that it should not appear damaged.
This was on Succot, during the ceremony of nisuch hamayim, pouring of water over the mizbeyach. The Sadducees were opposed to this because there was no explicit mention of this ceremony in the Torah. And so, the Sadducee kohen who was assigned the task took the water and poured it over his feet. (Some say the was who did this was Yannai.) This act was quite plausibly a deliberate statement. The Pharisee populace were angered at this and took the objects in their hands, the esrogim, and pelted him with it. And it was so forceful that the horn of  one of the mizbayach took damage. There is likely some metaphorical message here, or else that detail would not have been mentioned.

On the one hand, as a people, I think the holier approach is tolerance of others. To turn the Beit Hamikdash, into a place of sectarian violence is not a good thing. I can believe that my own approach to Judaism is correct, and that the approaches of others is incorrect, without believing that it is productive or positive to fight with others about it. I can accept that those other people are motivated not by wickedness, but by their own values and beliefs. The Sadducee thought that he was doing God's will. And this violent reaction debases those who take it, turning them from a holy nation which values derech eretz and mitzvos bein adam lachaveiro into an unruly mob.

On the other hand, if the people were not willing to stand up for proper Temple ritual, the side that is willing to be more forceful or obnoxious wins. The kohanim, or many of them, were Sadducees. And with no fear of backlash, they would have done just what they wanted. As we read in the beginning of Mishnayos Yoma, the elders had to adjure the kohen gadol not to deviate, by changing to a Saduccean version of the service; and they turned away and cried, and he turned away and cried.

The Women of the Wall are obviously trying to make a point, much in the way that that kohen was trying to make a point by pouring the water over his feet. That does not make them wicked. They believe that this is the proper way to pray, they believe in equal status for women in Jewish ritual, and they believe in taking a public stand to obliterate this inequality where they see it. But if they wanted to, they could pray in their own shul, or by Robinson's Arch. Or they could pray without tefillin, at Mincha. Instead, they are intolerant of the Orthodox atmosphere that has dominance over the Kotel, and are trying to modify it by their public prayer.

As for the violent reaction from some chareidim there, I think it is awful, because of what it reinforces in the Jewish psyche. Shechita is a mitzvah, and kohanim shechted korbanos, but even so, shechita reinforces the negative trait of cruelty. It would be a better approach, IMHO, to suffer the slings and arrows, even though in their minds, these slings and arrows are directed at Hashem, rather at them personally. At the same time, if they did not protest in forceful manner, it would make the intrusive modification of ritual at the kotel that much more likely. Just as the Muslims on the Temple Mount are often violent, which helps prevents Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount (which might be a first step towards reestablishing of some more permanent ritual there).

There is a concept of minhag hamakom. Yes, all sorts of different Orthodox prayer takes place at the Kotel, but within certain bounds. A good, male, friend of mine was shouted by several people at the Kotel for the sin of wearing tefillin on chol haMoed, since the overwhelming custom of Eretz Yisrael is not to wear tefillin. It is not like in America where you see some people in shul wearing tefillin and some not. (Though there are sources saying that one should not wear tefillin publically in such a setting.) It is possible that these people were entirely unaware of the dispute and difference in practice, or it is possible that they simply felt that it was inappropriate to change from the established minhag in public. Regardless, IMHO, it was a much greater sin on the part of these people to berate another Jew, who was indeed completely unaware that anything was 'problematic'. My point in all this is that it is not just a reaction to the Women of the Wall. This sort of reaction extends further.

See also this item, for how bad the extremism can get.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Is Chuck Hagel an Amalekite?

From the always silly Rav Fish, some troubling news about Chuck Hagel:
  • Chuck Hagel:
    • can be spelled in Hebrew צ'ק איגל [using a silent H].  צ'ק is the same letters as קץ, while איגל is the gematria of דם [blood]. 
    • And his father has German heritage. 
    • And he was born in North Platte, Nebraska, signifying מצפון תפתח הרעה
    • Also, this can be spelled נור ת, meaning "the fire of Tav" - the 400 men of Esav and Amalek
    • He worked at Firestone Tires, again "fire".  Also, פַיֶירְסְטוֹן is the gematria of משיח בן דוד.
This stuff always reminds me of the uncanny similarities of the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations:
Abraham Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846.
John F. Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946.

Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860.
John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960.

The names Lincoln and Kennedy each contain seven letters.

Both were particularly concerned with civil rights.

Both wives lost their children while living in the White House.

Both Presidents were shot on a Friday.

Both were shot in the head.

Lincoln's secretary, Kennedy, warned him not to go to the theatre.
Kennedy's secretary, Lincoln, warned him not to go to Dallas.

Both were assassinated by Southerners.

Both were succeeded by Southerners.

Both successors were named Johnson.

Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln, was born in 1808.
Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy, was born in 1908.

John Wilkes Booth was born in 1839.
Lee Harvey Oswald was born in 1939.

Both assassins were known by their three names.

Both names are comprised of fifteen letters

Booth ran from the theater and was caught in a warehouse.
Oswald ran from a warehouse and was caught in a theater.

Booth and Oswald were assassinated before their trials.
A month before he was shot, Lincoln was in Monroe, Maryland. 
 See Snopes' debunking of this. For instance, this paragraph:
The coincidences are easily explained as the simple product of mere chance. It's not difficult to find patterns and similarities between any two marginally-related sets of data, and coincidences similar in number and kind can be (and have been) found between many different pairs of Presidents. Our tendency to seek out patterns wherever we can stems from our desire to make sense of our world; to maintain a feeling that our universe is orderly and can be understood. In this specific case two of our most beloved Presidents were murdered for reasons that make little or no sense to many of us, and by finding patterns in their deaths we also hope to find a larger cosmic "something" that seemingly provides some reassuring (if indefinite) rhyme or reason why these great men were prematurely snatched from our mortal sphere.
Yes, the "frum" approach is to counter this with the assertion that, since Hashem controls the world (down to every falling leaf), there are no coincidences.

But even if we grant that every factoid was set in place by Hashem, the corresponding of the millions of little facts to establish a meaningful relationship is something done by humans. Rabbi Fish's last name is Fish, and I would assert that his methodology is fishy. Just because I, a human being, established a connection between the last name (a matter established by God) and the adjective "fishy" (also a matter established by God), that does not mean that God intended the correspondence to have meaning.

Even in pesukim, directly authored by God, not every human interpretation reflects Hashem's intent. The pasuk says Naaseh Adam Betzalmeinu, and a midrash states that Moshe objected that the human heretics would use this as proof of multiple gods. Hashem said that if humans want to err, let them err. Hashem wanted to make a homiletic point about the importance of consulting others.

If you line up any two historical events, or any two persons, there will be millions of factiods associated with them. And by the rules of large numbers, there will be a number of factiods from each set which match. To then point out the similarities reveals absolutely nothing.

And misusing gematria, synonyms, and multiple alternate spellings (e.g. spell Hagel with an aleph rather than a heh) to arrive at a predetermined outcome is bittul Torah in every sense of the word.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Parshablog endorses David Weprin For Congress

Today is the special election. You can read the Jewish Press's endorsement here. (Regardless of who you intend to vote for, you should go out and vote.) An excerpt of their endorsement of David Weprin:
He has a long record of standing up for the interests of his constituents in terms of child care, health care, senior care, etc., and has always impressed us with his understanding of the special needs of the Orthodox community's broad array of voluntary social service safety networks. And while he has had no direct responsibilities relating to the State of Israel (as a congressman he would), there are few public officials who have expressed themselves more forcefully on Israel's behalf.
So we have no hesitation in saying he would easily meet the checklist of most voters. This is especially true given the growing need to cut government spending - he argues for cuts over time and increasing taxes in the highest brackets - and the inevitable concomitant competition for ever-diminishing  resources. And given the mindset of President Obama when it comes to the Middle East, there has never been a greater need for people in Congress who fully appreciate the longstanding special relationship between the U.S. and Israel.
They address the reasons some people are saying to vote against him, which you can read there, but I will say it in my own words.

1) This will 'send Obama a message' about his Mideast policy? It is not going to do that. And besides, David Weprin is pro-Israel.

2) His support for the gay marriage bill? He is an Orthodox Jew. But he has said 'I am not running for Rosh Yeshiva', and he is absolutely right. Despite what one's own private religious moral compass may say, an elected official should be extremely careful and hesitant about imposing his own religious doctrine upon the community. Like it or not, gay marriage is something entirely acceptable in the general culture, and opposition stems from religious beliefs. How would you like it if a Christian Scientist were elected, and worked to close down doctors' offices and hospitals, because he believes that doctors are bad? How would you like it if a Christian were elected, and forced all stores to close on Sunday. (These were called blue laws.) How would you like it if a Muslim were elected, and made it illegal to sell and transport liquor, or to insult Muhammed?

There is a separation of church and state in the United States, and this is a very great thing. The end result is the allowing of different people to follow their religious beliefs unhindered -- even the religious, often-persecuted, minorities, such as the Jews -- while not allowing any group to impose their own religious beliefs on others. This should be something we should be grateful for, and a policy we should endorse, even if in any, or in many, particulars, the law is not in accord with halacha.

3) See what they have to say about the mosque. My thoughts on the matter is that once again, this has everything to do with not impinging on religious freedoms of other groups, even if it sticks in our craw.

Aside from all of the above, David Weprin has been quite helpful to the Jewish community in the past, functioning as a New York State Assemblymember. And, if I understand correctly, he would continue in this role if he is not elected to Congress. Do we really want to show lack of hakaras hatov to him? What message will this transmit to other politicians in office? And if he does not win, to we really want to alienate this ally?

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Did Obama botch a verse from Isaiah?

Summary: Yup. But who cares?

Post: From a FoxNews article:

President Obama misquoted a familiar Bible verse during a faith-based address at the National Prayer Breakfast.
"Those who wait on the Lord will soar on wings like eagles, and they will run and not be weary, and they will walk and not faint," the president said during a speech to several thousand people at the breakfast.
But the actual passage, from Isaiah 40:31, states: "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
Media Matters claims that this is Fox's error; they are citing King James, while Obama was citing New International version:
Somewhat ironically, while Fox Nation appears to be positioning themselves as the arbiters of authentic Christianity, they seem unfamiliar with the fact that there is more than one version of the Bible.
Obama was  quoting from the New International Version, while Fox Nation was pointing to the King James Version to "debunk" him.
This would be funny if it weren't so pathetic.
Most likely, they won't bother to correct their story, and their goal will be accomplished: the readers that trust them will remember the time Obama "misquoted" the Bible, some more people will question the authenticity of Obama's faith, and the smear machine will move on. 
But I don't think that the particular Bible translation was the point of the Fox News article. Rather, it was a missing phrase. Here it is from mechon mamre:

לא  וְקוֹיֵ יְהוָה יַחֲלִיפוּ כֹחַ, יַעֲלוּ אֵבֶר כַּנְּשָׁרִים; יָרוּצוּ וְלֹא יִיגָעוּ, יֵלְכוּ וְלֹא יִיעָפוּ.  {ס}31 But they that wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint. {S}


The New International Version would not likely omit the phrase, and indeed, they don't:
31 but those who hope in the LORD 
   will renew their strength. 
They will soar on wings like eagles; 
   they will run and not grow weary, 
   they will walk and not be faint.

We can simply compare Obama's quote with that of the NIV:

ObamaNIV
Those who wait on the Lord
***********************
will soar on wings like eagles
and they will run and not be weary
and they will walk and not faint


31 but those who hope in the LORD 
   will renew their strength. 
They will soar on wings like eagles; 
   they will run and not grow weary, 
   they will walk and not be faint.

This was likely Fox News' point. They were just lazy and sloppy in looking up the closest matching translation to point out the error. The question is whether Media Matters will retract their own error.

Still, this is not news. It is a non-issue. And it certainly doesn't cast doubts as to whether he is a real Christian, as opposed to a closet Muslim.

Update: I just checked, and they noted their own error, but persist in their criticism of Fox. You can see how they choose to do so -- that Fox was complaining about the entire verse, unaware that it was a different translation, but Media Matters was wrong to assert that he was citing precisely the NIV translation. But it is unconvincing, and seems to me to just be a way of avoiding the realization of their own error and misunderstanding of the Fox news report.

Further update: It could have been worse. Barack Obama might have pronounced it vekovei instead of vekoyei. ;)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Why Chomsky went off the derech

Based on a recent interview in Tablet Magazine:
At the age of 10 I came to the conclusion that the God I learned about in school didn’t exist.
I remember how I did that. I remember it very well. My father’s family was super Orthodox. They came from a little shtetl somewhere in Russia. My father told me that they had regressed even beyond a medieval level. You couldn’t study Hebrew, you couldn’t study Russian. Mathematics was out of the question. We went to see them for the holidays. My grandfather had a long beard, I don’t think he knew he was in the United States. He spoke Yiddish and lived in a couple of blocks of his friends. We were there on Pesach, and I noticed that he was smoking.
So I asked my father, how could he smoke? There’s a line in the Talmud that says, ayn bein shabbat v’yom tov ela b’inyan achilah. I said, “How come he’s smoking?” He said, “Well, he decided that smoking is eating.” And a sudden flash came to me: Religion is based on the idea that God is an imbecile. He can’t figure these things out. If that’s what it is, I don’t want anything to do with it.
Perhaps he could have asked his grandfather -- unless he did not speak Yiddish -- rather than his father. Or asked his local Orthodox rabbi.

I don't think that his grandfather simply "decided that smoking is eating". Rather, we are not Karaites. One looks to pesukim as well as to Rabbinic interpretations of those pesukim. It is true that Shemot 12:16 states:


טז  וּבַיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן, מִקְרָא-קֹדֶשׁ, וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי, מִקְרָא-קֹדֶשׁ יִהְיֶה לָכֶם:  כָּל-מְלָאכָה, לֹא-יֵעָשֶׂה בָהֶם--אַךְ אֲשֶׁר יֵאָכֵל לְכָל-נֶפֶשׁ, הוּא לְבַדּוֹ יֵעָשֶׂה לָכֶם.16 And in the first day there shall be to you a holy convocation, and in the seventh day a holy convocation; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done by you.


which gives us the exemption of ochel nefesh for Yom Tov. As Chomsky cited the Talmud, "ayn bein shabbat v’yom tov ela b’inyan achilah". However, in Ketubot 7a, we read the following:
Rav Pappi responded to Rav Pappa: Are you of the opinion that since wounding is permitted in a case of need [a case of ochel nefesh] it is also permitted even if there is no need [for food]? Are you then of the opinion that it is permitted to burn spices [this surely should be prohibited], because burning is permitted in a case of need and should therefore be permitted even if there is no need? 
Rav Pappa responded: Regarding this, the verse states: "Except for what is ye' achal lechol nefesh [literally: edible by all people] that alone may be done for you;" only something which is of benefit to all [shaveh lechol nefesh] may be done. 
Rav Acha the son of Rav asked Rav Ashi: Are you of the opinion that one who finds a deer on Yom Tov may not slaughter it because it is not shaveh lechol nefesh? 
Rav Ashi responded: What I mean to say is that the object to which the work is done must be shaveh lechol nefesh and a deer is shaveh lechol nefesh.
Thus, we do not restrict it (melechet ochel nefesh) only to things performed for the purpose of eating, but to other activities which are shava lechol nefesh.

From the same article by Rabbi Broyde I cited above is the following discussion of why smoking is permitted on Yom Tov:
Much debate among halachic decisors has focused on the permissibility or prohibition of smoking on Yom Tov.31 Magen Avraham writes that smoking tobacco is prohibited on Yom Tov as "it is not shaveh lechol nefesh".32He equates it with incense (mugmar)33 which was prohibited as not shaveh lechol nefesh - just as a majority of the people did not use the incense (mugmar) discussed in the Talmud and thus it was prohibited to burn it on Yom Tov, so, too, cigarettes should be prohibited inasmuch as the majority of people (in his day) did not smoke, although cigarettes were ready available.
Rabbi Jacob Falk, writing in Pnei Yehoshua,34 advances an argument which permits smoking on Yom Tov; he states that because so many people smoke, and smoking is viewed as of benefit to food digestion, and smoking contributes to one's overall health, it is therefore permissible as shaveh lechol nefesh.35 Rabbi Jacob Emden agrees with this reasoning and adds an even weightier concern: he notes that many people are nauseous at the sight of food if they do not first smoke - therefore, if halacha were to prohibit smoking on Yom Tov, it would severely dampen such people's simchat Yom Tav.36 Similarly Teshuvat Darchei Naam 37writes the following:
It is obvious that those who smoke enjoy it. The majority of people smoke, only an insignificant minority does not, and as with all Torah law a majority is treated like a unanimous consensus... Furthermore smoking is nearly in the category of ochel nefesh. This assertion holds true not only for the Rambam38 who is of the opinion that bathing is included in the same category as eating, but even those who exclude bathing from the category of ochel nefesh would include smoking because it stimulates the palate in a manner similar to eating.39
Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (Mishnah Berurah) in his Biur Halacha40 ponders the permissibility smoking on Yom Tov based on an observation that in his time, most or many41 people smoked. Aruch Hashulchan also permits smoking, and he does so after a lengthy discussion of why most people do not mind cigarette smoke and enjoy smoking.42 So too, Rabbi Neuwirth in Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata43 quotes both lenient and stringent opinions with regard to smoking on Yom Tov for one who is accustomed to it.44 Rabbi Ovadia Yosef concludes that in practice one who does not usually smoke should abstain from smoking; however, "we are lenient so as to allow smoking for those whose Yom Tov would be darkened were they not permitted to smoke. For someone who does not normally smoke, it is best not to smoke on Yom Tov."45
See also this article by Rabbi Chaim Jachter.

So, contra Chomsky, religion is not based on the idea that God is an imbecile. If religious believes anyone to be an imbecile, it is Chomsky.

It is rather sad that he decided to dismiss his religion because he misunderstood it. He was not educated enough to realize that he was misunderstanding it, and he didn't respect it enough to do due diligence to get to the bottom of the matter.

Indeed, I would guess that it was not this one point which drove him from religion. Look at what he cites his father as saying. First, as “Well, he decided that smoking is eating.” Later in the followup question:
And what did your father say?
I was just thinking about that. He just quoted the line to me and then explained, “He thinks he is eating.”
My sense is that Chomsky's father didn't think much of the grandfather's actions either. Two pesukim come to mind. One is from parashat Haazinu:


ז  זְכֹר יְמוֹת עוֹלָם, בִּינוּ שְׁנוֹת דֹּר-וָדֹר;  {ס}  שְׁאַל אָבִיךָ וְיַגֵּדְךָ, זְקֵנֶיךָ וְיֹאמְרוּ לָךְ.  {ר}7 Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations; ask thy father, and he will declare unto thee, thine elders, and they will tell thee.

He fulfilled the first part of the pasuk, of שְׁאַל אָבִיךָ וְיַגֵּדְךָ, though his father did not know enough about the topic to inform him correctly. (Deep knowledge of Hebrew is different from deep knowledge of the relevant sugyot and the derivation of a halacha.) He should have followed up with זְקֵנֶיךָ וְיֹאמְרוּ לָךְ, by asking his grandfather.

The other is from later in the same parasha:


מז  כִּי לֹא-דָבָר רֵק הוּא, מִכֶּם--כִּי-הוּא, חַיֵּיכֶם; וּבַדָּבָר הַזֶּה, תַּאֲרִיכוּ יָמִים עַל-הָאֲדָמָה, אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם עֹבְרִים אֶת-הַיַּרְדֵּן שָׁמָּה, לְרִשְׁתָּהּ.  {פ}47 For it is no vain thing for you; because it is your life, and through this thing ye shall prolong your days upon the land, whither ye go over the Jordan to possess it.' {P}

where Chazal darshen the phrase כִּי לֹא-דָבָר רֵק הוּא מִכֶּם as that the Torah is not a vain thing, כִּי לֹא-דָבָר רֵק הוּא; and if you perceive it to be so, it is your own darn fault -- מִכֶּם!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The politically incorrect New York Times

I can understand why the New York Times is upset about the breaching of network security in India by a group of Chinese hackers, because of how it could negatively impact our own troops. Even so, this was rather uncalled for:

The intruders even stole documents related to the travel of NATO forces in Afghanistan, illustrating that even though the Indian government was the primary target of the attacks, one chink in computer security can leave many nations exposed.
“It’s not only that you’re only secure as the weakest link in your network,” said Rafal Rohozinski, a member of the Toronto team. “But in an interconnected world, you’re only as secure as the weakest link in the global chain of information.”

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Sarah Palin and Hashem, keeping notes on their hands?

Hat tip to DovBear, who notes this derasha which Sarah Palin made:
At an Ohio Right to Life fundraiser Friday, the former Alaska governor assailed the media for criticizing her for writing speaking pointers on her hand at the tea party convention last month. Some critics charged Palin with double standards after she took a jab at President Obama’s use of the teleprompter.

“I didn’t have a good answer to that criticism because I thought it was so ridiculous,” Palin said. “But then someone sent me the other day Isaiah 49:16.”

The verse reads, “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”

For Palin, that was encouragement enough.

“Hey, if it was good enough for God, scribbling on the palm of his hand, it’s good enough for me, for us. In that passage, he says, ‘I wrote your name on the palm of my hand to remember you.’ And I’m like ok, I’m in good company,” she told cheering supporters.
Oy. In terms of whether the pasuk actually means this... Well, perhaps, sort of. The pasuk in question is Yeshaya 49:16:

טז  הֵן עַל-כַּפַּיִם, חַקֹּתִיךְ; חוֹמֹתַיִךְ נֶגְדִּי, תָּמִיד.16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands; thy walls are continually before Me.


But Saadia Gaon points out that kapayim in other contexts means clouds, and that this is what is means here as well. Radak argues, writing:
[מט, טז]
הן על כפים -
פירש רב סעדיה ז"ל:





כמו עננים, וכן: נשא לבבינו אל כפים. 
והנכון כמשמעו. וכן תרגם יונתן.
כלאו את חקוקה, לפני שאזכרך תמיד.
Looking at a Mikraos Gedolos on Yeshaya, we find Rashi gives both explanations. Mahari Kara is not explicit, but it seems he favors engraved on hands. Ibn Ezra cites both but favors the hand interpretation, for reasons he gives there. Targum Yonatan: Behold, you are like engraved upon hands before Me.

We might also consider Yeshaya 44:5:

ה  זֶה יֹאמַר לַיהוָה אָנִי, וְזֶה יִקְרָא בְשֵׁם-יַעֲקֹב; וְזֶה, יִכְתֹּב יָדוֹ לַיהוָה, וּבְשֵׁם יִשְׂרָאֵל, יְכַנֶּה.  {פ}5 One shall say: 'I am the LORD'S'; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel. {P}

and consider the ancient practice of writing on the hand to show that one belongs to one another. Thus, in an Aramaic papyrus from Elephantine, 427 BCE:
Meshullam son of Zakkur, a Jew of the fortress Elephantine, of the detachment of Arpakhu said to the woman Tapmut (as she is called), (3) his slave, who has on her right hand the marking "Of Meshullam," as follows...
Note that even if it means hand, this is metaphor. Hashem does not have a hand! (Just dibra Torah ke-leshon bnei adam.) And he would not need to engrave something upon his hand as a memory aid! And this is likely like a mark, showing attachment and a maintained connection. It is not crib notes!

Despite all this, I think that it is misguided to mock Sarah Palin for having notes inscribed on her hand.

I know. I often teach; sometimes secular subjects, and sometimes shiurim. And there are three things I can do, going into a lecture or shiur:

(1) I could use full written notes. I find that, particularly for shiurim, it is useful to write out the derasha in full, just to make sure all the ideas are developed, and to make sure that there are smooth transitions from one idea to the next. This even if I don't actually read the notes. (So, on the advice of Rabbi Lookstein, in his class on homiletics.) But on the occasions that I actually read the notes out loud during a speech, the result is a wooden delivery. It is like using a teleprompter.

(2) Another option is to go in without notes at all. I've done this on more than one occasion. The drawback is that I might forget a connection, and flounder about for a minute while trying to reestablish it. And sometimes I forget to address one of the important ideas I had planned on discussing.

(3) I could give myself a terse outline. The three or four major ideas I plan on addressing, with maybe a transition or two; or a turn of a phrase. The result is a more engaged and natural delivery, but hopefully covering all topics I want to cover, in the order I want to cover it.

That I would opt for (1), while referring occasionally to notes; or especially that I would opt for (3), does not indicate that I am a moron, who cannot remember the three or four points. It means that I can get nervous, or caught up in a discussion, and forget to mention some point I did wish to deliver.

That Sarah Palin wrote on her hand a reminded that she wants to lower taxes does not mean that without that note she would have thought that she wants to raise taxes -- to cite DovBear --
Now, you may have thought Sarah resorted to crib notes because she needed to remind herself that she wants to lower taxes (no joke, this was one of the actual reminders she put on her hand)
Rather, this was one point she wanted to talk about, organically, out of, say, 50 points that she might have discussed. Look at the picture of her hand, above. She wrote "budget cuts", but crossed out "budget" and wrote in "tax cuts". I suppose because tax cuts speak to voters, who want this practical result of more money in their pockets, while budget cuts means limiting government, a means to the end of tax cuts, but also suggesting, in some instances, a reduction of services. She was giving a speech, and was using this as an outline.

And she couldn't very well bring a piece of paper to the interview, while looking so natural; especially after having criticized President Obama for his over-reliance on a teleprompter. Even though this is very different, in terms of audience perception, it is a fine point of distinction that many might not grasp.

Anyway, check out this SNL clip, a trailer for the movie 2012:

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Does Obama look like Pharaoh?

There have been some rather silly claims out there that Barack Obama looks just like Pharoah a specific Pharaoh, and his Michelle like that Pharaoh's wife, often followed by a comparison (/kvetch) of Obama's policies and those of the Biblical Pharaoh. Here are the images, with the purported resemblances.

























Frankly, I think that this comparison is just a little bit racist. Has these statues been made of a lighter material, it is quite possible that people would not be making the comparisons. But more than that, there have been studies suggesting (in terms of eyewitness testimony) that people are better able to distinguish individuals within their own race, and less able to distinguish individuals within other races. This makes sense, since the racial features are more stark, and the thing one would latch on to, as different from those surrounding you. But within your own race, everyone shares these racial features, more or less, and so it is the fine differences that one pays more attention to.

If you see a similarity between Obama and this pharaoh, it is likely because both share African features, since they are both of African descent. But I can look carefully and see clear differences; and I would assume that an African-American would be even more attuned and see even clearer differences.

The other trick is placing them in the same poses and the same expressions, more or less. Given a public figure like Obama, it is fairly easy to go through thousands of photos and find the ones the closest in pose and expression. Kind of like the one with Bush and the monkey expression.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Questionable Science and Messianist Fervor, pt i

What is it that makes people who firmly believe the apocalypse is coming now also seize upon every questionable news article, and every dubious theory? Is it that they want to believe, and so latch on to any evidence that promotes their beliefs? Or is it that the same lack of discernment which led them to their apocalyptic beliefs in the first place also leads them in general to accept uncritically the silliest of ideas, from the most unimpressive of sources? Perhaps it is a little of both.

The latest is a claim by a renowned psychologist that Obama is a narcissist, just like Hitler and David Koresh, or at least has narcissistic personality disorder. Except of course the fellow is not a real psychologist, and did not do a real analysis.

So what makes Shirat Devorah, for instance, so readily swallow such baloney? Look, if it is true, then it is important to get out this information. But if it is not true, then it is repeatedly slandering an innocent man, and saying all sorts of false negative things about him. Doing that is certainly not a nice thing to do, even while those who spread such vicious lies think that they are the greatest tzadikkim. (Of course, they might well say the same about me.)

The article at Shirat Devorah was not written by Dr. Sam (Shmuel) Vaknin. It was based on this article, which was written by him.

As for diagnosing mental health issues, this is to be done by a mental health professional. Indeed, Sam Vaknin even says this himself, in the article he wrote:
Granted, only a qualified mental health diagnostician can determine whether someone suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and this, following lengthy tests and personal interviews. But, in the absence of access to Barack Obama, one has to rely on his overt performance and on testimonies by his closest, nearest and dearest.
So he is not doing this based on any up close and personal analysis, which is what needs to be done to assess this, after lengthy tests and personal interviews. But at least he is a mental health professional. Right?! Nope!

Sam Vaknin explicitly says that he is not one:
1. In publishing this Web site, the author makes no representations concerning the efficacy, appropriateness or suitability of any products or treatments. Use this site at your own risk. The author of this Web site, is not a mental health professional and has no relevant background or training in psychology or psychiatry.
Contrast that with the article reprinted at Shirat Devorah, basing itself on his words:
To Dr. Sam Vaknin, the author of the Malignant Self Love, "Barack Obama appears to be a narcissist." Vaknin is a world authority on narcissism. He understands narcissism and describes the inner mind of a narcissist like no other person. When he talks about narcissism everyone listens.
So the world authority on narcissism has no relevant training or background in psychology or psychiatry. Somehow, I doubt that he is the authority this article makes him out to be.

But he is a doctor, no?! Doesn't he have a Ph.D?

Well, yes and no. As his bio states, he is involved in the world of finance. His Ph.D. comes from Pacific Western University, in California. It is a distance learning institution. As the dean of that school said, "A lot of people have called us a diploma mill." The school is non-accredited, which means its degrees are not recognized.

And this is your source for maligning the president of the United States? How ridiculous! How shameful! This reflects poorly on you, not on Obama.

(See also Snopes on this. And see this discussion on PsychForums.)

And this is not the first time these Jewish apocalyptic sites have fallen for such nonsense, from the flimsiest of sources. It is because they already buy into earlier nonsense, which is not authentic Judaism either -- people who claim Obama is Gog, where those people are not big talmidei chachamim but just possibly delusional people backing up their ludicrous claims with gematrias, where a gematria can be found to prove anything.

That is not to say that I am a big fan of Obama's policies. I am not. But I didn't like it when quacks psychoanalyzed Bush from a distance, and I don't like it when they do the same to Obama. To cite a commenter on the Shirat Devorah website:
I don't like him either - but enough with the obsession already. It's becoming unhealthy. Channel it towards something productive aside from loving to hate the leader of the western world.
Aside from any of this, it is shocking! Just shocking! that America has had at least two consecutive presidents with narcissistic personality disorder. Because according to this psychologist, President George Bush had it.

Frankly, when people do this, and allow their political biases to cloud their training and expertise, it does not reflect poorly on the target (Bush or Obama). Rather, it reflects poorly on the people making this ridiculous and biased diagnosis.

Who else has been labeled narcissistic? Well, Sarah Palin. And Bill Clinton. And Hillary Clinton. And Elliot Spitzer. And Chuck Hagel. See this New York Times article on the subject:
“It sounds more impressive to say that someone is narcissistic rather than a jerk,” said Dr. Susan Jaffe, a Manhattan psychoanalyst.

Are any of these characters actually narcissists? Only their therapists know for sure.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Did Gog-bama Deliberately Flub The Oath Of Office?

People say the darnedest things. But it is still funny.

That he deliberately flubbed the oath is what Shirat Devorah believes.
Interesting.... it seems even Justice Roberts couldn't supply a Bible for the revised oath, despite the "abundance of caution" being applied and the much-hyped Lincoln Bible being made available by the Library of Congress - giving us more reason to believe that the fluffed lines were rehearsed beforehand, so that the real oath could be taken sans Bible. And all this from a man who made a very public point of attending prayer services before and after his inauguration.
The reason for this, I would guess, is that Obama is Gog and would not want to swear on a Bible. Heh.

A few points:

(1) The Lincoln Bible is a King James translation, containing both Old Testament and New Testament.

(2) Obama did not flub the oath. It was Roberts, trying to fix a split infinitive.

(3) John Roberts was a Bush appointee, a Republican, and a Catholic. Would he really be colluding with the Democratic candidate to avoid bringing God into the ceremony?

(4) Whether or not the first, flubbed oath satisfied the Constitutional requirements (it likely did, but the second oath was misafek), even so, Obama did take an oath on a Bible with the same message as the oath in the Constitution. The difference was a misplaced modifier. If there some benefit for Gog-bama to take a binding oath on a Bible separately, and take an oath of office later without one? What benefit accrues to him, exactly, in this conspiracy-theory scenario??

(5) Even if he never took the oath, he likely became president at noon regardless.

(6) The swearing on a Bible is only a "minhag", but does not invalidate the oath with its absence. And perhaps since this was just to fulfill a technical safek, they did not bother, since the "flubbed" oath with all the pomp and ceremony had it, and that was enough.

(7) Is any of this really worthy of comment? No, since the allegation is just so silly. But I've seen how these snowball in various communities, so I might as well put my two cents worth in early on.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Interesting Posts and Articles #91

  1. On the sheitel front, kallahmagazine posts her article -- "The Advent of the American Sheitel."

    And here is an online collection of sources on kisui harosh.

  2. Overlawyered posts about Obama's mandatory volunteerism at change.gov -- 50 hrs a year of community service from middle school until the end of high school, and 100 hrs a year in college. Then, they changed change.gov to take out the "required" language.

  3. Shirat Devorah sees Obama in many of the descriptions DreamingOfMoshiach had given in describing Gog (while claiming Bush was Gog). Great minds think alike! I said the same thing before the election as well, with the same sources, though I developed it a bit more. Of course, I was showing there how this is a partial quotation of sources, and how I did not believe that any of the candidates (nor George W. Bush) was Gog, by showing how it could be interpreted any way one pleased.

  4. And perhaps I am just ignorant of the Jewish literature on this messianic subject, but I was astounded to see the following words from Joel Gallis and Robert Wolf, of the now clearly incorrect Redemption5768, also cited at Shirat Devorah:
    Exactly 5 years after Rav Kaduri met Mashiach, a descendant of Yishmael, an evil anti-Semite, was elected as the 44th President of the United States. He is the anti-Mashiach, also known as Gog.
    This in an article called "The Anti-Mashiach." For those in the know, "Christ" is Greek for mashiach. So anti-Christ is anti-mashiach. As far as I am aware, the antichrist is a Christian, rather than Jewish doctrine. And a search on anti-mashiach in Google yields many christian and Jews for Jesus websites. Saying Obama is Gog is one thing -- an incorrect thing, IMHO, but it is one thing. Saying he is the antichrist is another.

    Perhaps someone can correct me in the comments. Or else correct them.

    Update: Thanks! to Yaakov Nathan, of {?} Yiddishkeit.org, who writes in the comment section:
    This is from the midrash אוצר המדרשים ע' 390, which is also included in "Tzipisa Lishua" compiled by the Chofetz Chayim.

    Armilus, however, is not Gog.

    האות השביעי, הקב"ה בעל נפלאות עושה מופת בעולם. אמרו שיש ברומי אבן של שיש ועליה דמות נערה יפת תואר, והיא אינה עשויה בידי אדם אלא הקב"ה בראה כן בגבורתו, ובאין רשעי אומות העולם בני בלייעל ומחממין אותה ושוכבים אצלה, והקב"ה משמר טיפתן בתוך האבן ובורא בה בריה ויוצר בה ולד, והיא מתבקעת ויוצא ממנה דמות אדם ושמו ארמילוס השטן, זה שהאומות קורין אותו אנטיקרישטו, ארכו שתים עשרה אמה, ורחבו שתים עשרה ובין שתי עיניו זרת והן עמוקות אדומות ושער ראשו כצבע זהב, פעמי רגליו ירוקין ושתי קדקדין יש לו. ויבוא אצל אדום הרשעה ויאמר להם משיח אני, אני אלוהיכם, מיד מאמינים בו וממליכים אותו עליהם ומתחברים בו כל בני עשו ובאים אצלו, והולך וכובש כל המדינות ואומר לבני עשו הביאו לי תורתי שנתתי לכם, ומביאים תיפלותם ואומר להם אמת היא שנתתי לכם ואומר לאומות העולם האמינו בי כי אני משיחכם, מיד מאמינים בו. באותה שעה משגר לנחמיה בן חושיאל ולכל ישראל ואומר להם הביאו לי תורתכם והעידו בי שאני אלוה, מיד מתפחדין ונתמהין.

    http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/mahshevt/haraayon/otot-2.htm
    I wonder at the date of this midrash though. It makes me quite uncomfortable, as it refers explicitly to the Christian belief by the Christian name. (And presumably thus at least accidentally endorsing the Christian interpretation of Scriptures which yield this.) However, read this article in the Jewish Encyclopedia about Antichrist from the Jewish perspective. And another one about Armilus.




    And Yeranen Yaakov notes sources that connect Armilus to Gog, pointing to footnote 9 here.

    While it finds expression in certain midrashim, it does not mean I am now comfortable or accepting of it. The JewishEncyclopedia article on Armilus gives some interesting details of how this midrash arose, and ends with the statement that:
    The alleged descent of Armilus from a stone is a Jewish version of the wide-spread legend connected with the name of Virgil and referring to a statue that became a courtezan among the Romans (Güdemann, "Gesch. des Erziehungswesens . . . der Juden in Italien," pp. 221 et seq., 332, 333). It is indeed not improbable that this borrowing from the Virgil legend was due to Christian influence. The antithesis, Christ and Antichrist, which is the distinctive feature in the Christian legend of the Antichrist, led already in the tenth century to the opinion that Antichrist also would be the offspring of a virgin and, of course, of Satan (see Bousset,"Antichrist," p. 92, and the description of St. Hildegarde, lib. iii., visio xi., ed. Migne, pp. 716 et seq.).

  5. That same essay refers to the reference to Obama in Yechezkel. Also pointed out to me by my parents, and seen at Mystical Paths and Yehudi Yerushalmi and Yeranen Yaakov:

    יחזקאל פרק לח


    ויהי דבר-יהוה, אלי לאמר. ב בן-אדם, שים פניך אל-גוג ארץ המגוג--נשיא, ראש משך ותבל; והנבא, עליו. ג ואמרת, כה אמר אדני יהוה: הנני אליך, גוג--נשיא, ראש משך ותבל. ד ושובבתיך, ונתתי חחים בלחייך; והוצאתי אותך ואת-כל-חילך סוסים ופרשים, לבשי מכלול כלם--קהל רב צנה ומגן, תפשי חרבות כלם.
    The reason I am not so impressed is my near-certainty that had McCain been elected, someone would have found a similarly impressive code for him being Gog. It is a question of motivation, and the malleability of the sources -- which is why they were able to come up with a McCain-Palin Torah code matrix, which was making the rounds before the election.

    And what of Gog Bush, that certain quarters were so sure of, and had a "firm" basis for? (We'll finally be able to put that to rest on Jan 20th.) We will see how an Obama presidency shapes up -- may it be for good! -- and whether there is any more basis in this than for the proof that the end of days must come in the days of Olmert.

    Meanwhile, in the comment threat at Mystical Paths, devash says it is not a legit Torah code since it lacks other detail. (Perhaps devash means other codes crossing it.)

  6. Already, proposals for a national holiday in honor of Obama. Heh.

  7. An interesting example of "objectivity" in the classroom:


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Voter Intimidation by Black Panthers? And More Election News

  1. See here:


  2. Also, according to YNet, Obama made secret promises to Palestinians. But that is contested:
    The sources said that during a recent meeting with Obama, the two Palestinian leaders "heard the best things they ever heard from an American president."

    According to the report, the Democratic senator told Abbas and Fayyad that he "supports the rights of the Palestinians to east Jerusalem, as well as their right to a stable, sovereign state", but asked them to keep the remarks a secret.

    Dennis Ross, a key advisor to Obama on foreign policy, denied the report outright. "As someone who was present in Senator Obama’s meeting with the Palestinian leadership, I can state definitively that there were no secret commitments made, and no discussion of Jerusalem whatsoever. This report is false,” his statement said.




Update: Here's another video, this time from earlier, of the black panther guy with the nightstick:

The Sarah Palin Matrix vs. The Obama Gematria

Today is election day in the US!

I saw this interesting post at Mystical Paths, (they were just repeating it because it was interesting), that purports to prove via Torah codes that Sarah Palin will be our next vice president, and that John McCain will be our next president. I noted some of the problems I have with this in the comment section there. But here is a larger list:

a) Interpreting "in pain shall you bring forth children" in the plain text, in something that does not even intersect with Sarah Palin, to be a reference to her Down Syndrome child, is insulting. And it is a kvetch to boot.

b) They show an impressive matrix, but that is because they are not showing most of the characters. The full rows are not shown, but as they note, there are 45,159 characters between rows. These words are not really very proximate to one another.

c) As far as I can make out, they are wrapping around the text. They are starting in Devarim and ending in Shemos, with Bereishit also in there! Apparently, they are doing some wrap-around to accomplish this. This is weird.

d) Furthermore, they are not even spelling Sarah Palin correctly. They are spelling it שרה פאילן. A Google web and news search reveals no such spellings. And it is a weird spelling, with no yud between the lamed and the nun, and with a yud after the aleph. To compare, a web search on שרה פאלין spelled as I just spelled it yields 10,000 hits, and spelled שרה פלין yields 17,000 hits. Now, you may argue that any transliteration is acceptable, and this is how they do Torah codes. No. This is the very problem of "wiggle room" for Torah codes -- if you can choose at will any spelling, rather than choosing one up front, then the codes are not statistically meaningful, and you can find similar codes in War and Peace. Why this is so, I won't explain here. Do some research on the matter, if you are interested in this difficulty.

Overall, unimpressive.

Compare with the equally unimpressive claim that Obama will be President because Barack Hussain Obama has a gematria of 501, the same as the Levi Jeans and of the word ראש. And words like ישמעאלים. I wonder how many past presidents had the same gematria of 501, and how many of their defeated opponents had 501.

They neglect to mention that John McCain's middle name is Sidney, and so his full name of יון סידני מקקאין is also 501. So why say this shows Obama as President more than McCain? The answer is that they do not realize how malleable gematria is, so when they abuse gematria to get the results they want and nothing else, they do not realize they are abusing it.

Choosing a gematria to this specific word, as opposed to נשיא, or הפרזידנט. Indeed, הפְּרֶזִידֶנְט has a gematria of 365, while יון מקקין has a gematria of 366, where you are allowed to be off by one. Also, it all depends on whether Barack's first name is a cognate of Baruch or of Baraq, Lightning, Mohammed's horse. The gematria which leads to 501 is based on Baraq, with a ק. But the spelling ck at the end of Barack, and the sometimes given etymology, would perhaps make it with a chaf or chaf sofit, which would mess up the entire gematria.

At the end of the day, both things are silly. Obama or McCain will win because of the votes of the American public and the Divine plan. But not because Obama's gematria is 501, and the fact that it is 501 has absolutely nothing to do with anything. But silly people try to create patterns, in gematria and in Torah codes, to reassure themselves and convince themselves that they know what is going on.

And if McCain wins, they will point to the Palin matrix. And if Obama wins, they will point to the Obama "Torah" code in Daniel, or to the gematria of his name. So they win either way. And the method will remain just as silly.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

No, Sarah Palin Is Not Jewish!

Note: Don't forget to set your clocks one hour back tonight, because of Daylight Savings.

So on erev Shabbos, I received an email chain forward with the title UNBELIEVABLE. Indeed. The claim is that Sarah Palin is Jewish, by maternal descent. I tend to doubt many things sent by email forwards, and the claim itself is in itself somewhat dubious. First the text, and then the debunking.

The text:
Based on Jewish tradition that makes one Jewish if born to a mother of Jewish ethnic decent, Sarah Palin is Jewish, though she touts a mask of evangelical christianity. Sarah Palin's mother, Sally Sheigam, was of Lithuanian Jewish heritage and so were both of her mother's parents, Louise Sheigam and Shmuel Sheigam. Her father, Chuck Heath, also comes from Jewish blood because his mother, Beatrice Coleman, was of Jewish decent. Further information on Governor
Palin's ancestors can be found in the vital records in the Lithuanian State Historical Archives in Vilnius ( http://www.archyvai.lt/ here).
The Archives holds birth, marriage, divorce, and death records for the Lithuanian Jewish community from 1851 until 1915 when the Jews were required to leave the country because of World War I. They are in 18th Century Cyrillic script and Yiddish. Many of these records include the mother's maiden name and town of registration.

Palin's maternal grandfather, Schmuel Sheigam, was a Lithuanian Jew, born in 1912 in Vilkaviskis, Lithuania, The Sheigams' grandmother was a Jewess named Gower. At the Ellis Island Immigration Center, the name was entered as Sheeran, instead of Sheigam, a standard practice when immigration officers were unable to understand the pronunciation of non-English speaking immigrants. They are buried in the Jewish cemetery at Budezeriai.
A good debunking is here at wiki answers. Basically, you can find a detailed ancestry of Sarah Palin at this website. On the maternal side, there are many generations which were born in America, not Lithuania. A partial excerpt from the wiki answers site:

*Palin's mother was born Sally Sheeran, in Oct 1940, in Richland, WA
*Her mother was born Helen Louise Gower, on 22 Jan 1910 in WI
*Her mother was born Cora Strong, on 4 Nov 1886, in Chippewa Co., WI
*Her mother was born Augusta L[odema] Godfrey, in Jul 1854, in Waverly, Morgan Co., IL

and so on and so forth, for several more generations.

My guess is that this is either from an Obama supporter who wants to alienate the Neo-Nazi from McCain, and thought to himself, "what would a Neo-Nazi hate more than an African-American President"; or a McCain supporter who thought (most likely incorrectly) that this would persuade Jewish voters to vote for McCain-Palin, rather than the Democratic candidate.

I did not see this on snopes, so it is important, I think, to post it here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Interesting Posts and Articles #88

  1. A scandal in Louisiana's courts, about handling of appeals by indigent Louisiana convicts.

  2. Illegal, quite possibly politically motivated, searches on records of Joe the Plumber.

  3. As Gilui notes in a comment, these failing predictions of mashiach by the Succot which just ended were sparked by statements made by Rav Kaduri, z"tzl or perhaps made by Rav Kaduri's student in his name, based in turn on statements by the Gra applied to recent events. He notes this article at IsraelNationalNews which elaborates. If so, and this is indeed a failed prediction, then we should note that it is Rav Kaduri's (or his student, Yehoshua Meiri's) prediction which failed as well.

    Though we cannot blame the Gra on this, since his words were being interpreted and applied to present day. In terms of Rav Kaduri, he passed away and so was not making statements all the way up to Succot. I do not know what his student was saying.

    Also, this does not take the blame, or credit, from those who echoed this prediction with their own predictions, or prophecies, as the case may be in each particular instance. E.g. a navi who "steals" another prophet's prophecy, by echoing it and claiming it as his own, is still a navi sheker. And the people putting forth these claims were not advancing them solely on the authority of this prediction by Rav Kaduri. For example, the "autistics," who pretend to be prophets conveying messages from on high, were conveying their own messages about the end of days, adding all sorts of predictive details. They may have been initially influenced by Rav Kaduri or his student, or any of the other mystical websites / sources out there, but in the end, it is they who put forth their own predictions, as prophecy. The same goes for any (mis-)interpretation of sources at Dreaming Of Moshiach, or any quasi-"prophetic" dreams she may have had. These bolster the original claim, but still those who advance such claims, especially while giving it an air of authority as the words of the Zohar or as a prophetic dream, are ultimately responsible for their claim.

  4. Revach.net discusses eating hot food on Shabbat, and how they (used to) suspect someone who did not do so of being a closet Sadducee. Unfortunate modern-day consequences of misunderstanding this to refer specifically to chulent, because chamin in modern Hebrew is chulent (they clarify that they mean any hot food, despite talking about chulent), or perhaps even applying it at all today when people are not really in danger of being Sadducees, may be seen in this old post at WolfishMusings about someone who was made to make a new geirut misafek, and the way it was reported.

  5. Shirat Devorah believes that the Obama campaign is going to literally brainwash millions of Americans via their TVs. I don't think so.

    If you would like to be brainwashed, though, you can see the infomercial here. Just make sure to put on your tinfoil hat first, to protect against the mind-control rays:


    But it reminds me of two stories which happened a short time back with my (fairly young) son. 1) He was running somewhere, and I made a stupid pun (I can't elaborate upon) about him being a Mayoral Candidate. He replied: Yes, I'm going to vote and vote, until John McCain decides to become President.
    2) The next morning, he was watching Word Girl. It was a rerun, and there was a evil genius, Mr. Big, who was trying to take over the town by using a mind-control device to get everyone to vote for him. (See here for a video clip of a (different) section of it, or view the same clip below.)

    But then the mind control device broke, so he had to take a different tack. He made a campaign slogan along the lines of "Vote for Change!" and took the (non-) unique approach of promising everyone everything they wanted. "I want a pony!" "Done!"
    My son saw this, turned to my wife and asked, "Is that man Obama?"
    Heh.

  6. Mystical Paths has a satirical take on the stabbing by a zealot of someone at the kever of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, at an upsherin, because of the lack of tznius in the fact that the family was gathered together, such that there was a mixture of men and women. See this article for more details. I don't know enough about the background. It could be reflective of the general encouragement of zealotry, especially in terms of tznius. But it seems quite plausible to me that the guy might just be a true lunatic, who took his cues from various messages, and should not reflect the general chareidi population or any trends they might be taking.

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