Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Va'ad Harabonim Leinyonei Deyoma

Stepping into a close acquaintance's house past Purim, I spotted the editor of one of the most prestigious Hareidi newspapers agitatedly gesticulating and arguing about something, even with his clown costume on. Besides my burning desire to completely - and literally - fulfill the mitzvas hayom by consumption of liquid barley (according to my wife the only mitzvah I meticulously fulfill year-round) I had to deal with my own familial catastrophes (only my younger daughter got a dollar - a real one, of paper - from the aforementioned "clownie", the older daughter rejected all consolation even after receiving a silver dollar from Zaidie, and the calamity that befell my wife was really serious, to be sure - the kids smeared chocolate on her beautiful skirt -which was anyway black. Hey, I'm getting smeared every day with fat, blood, tomato sauce, cream, gravy and what not all over, but I guess without being paid for it, that counts for a bad thing), so I couldn't stay to hear what the great brouhaha was all about.

After all the relics left of Scotland and Czech-land were empty bottles, their contents deliciously turned into heat energy, the silver dollar duly converted into an unfalsifiable portrait of George Washington, I was now ready to be filled in on the details of Mr. Editor's outrage;
Turns out that during the course of an ordinary Purim chit-chat, Mr. Editor was informed that the baal-habayis' daughter-in-law was working for the Va'ad Harabonim Leinyonei Tzdokah. Her toils consisted in picking up calls and taking down the details, 24/6/approx 302, forward the transactions to the credit-card processing companies and making deposits, and her salary consisted of twenty thousand American Dollars. I found this as indignant as Mr. Editor did at the time, yet to date he hasn't uttered a word in his esteemed publication, which I find even more outrageous. That people should be paid for their troubles - I totally agree. Even what seemed to infuriate Mr. Editor most, namely the Va'ad's claim every single penny goes into the pauper's pockets, didn't bother me as much as the fact that the recipient of this non-lucrative sacred position isn't one of the people on the va'ad's roster. After all, wouldn’t it make more sense to put a tragedy-struck person on the payroll and ‘earn’ his charity in a more dignified way? Now, in case you imagine that the aforementioned Good Lakewoodian is a wretched kollel wife constrained to live on carobs and stream water, and to diaper her children with fig leaves, I have some news for you. If the New Jersey Department Of Family Development is unable (or rather unwilling, to be more honest) to figure out that Mr. and Mrs. Va’ad Harabonim Employees own three houses and are supported by Mrs.’s father, I’d expect that the Va’ad would make sure to verify to whom they channel the money with which the public has entrusted them. I remember that in the very beginning of the Va’ad’s establishing, Rav Yaakov Fisher ZTS”L said that “this kuppah can be trusted like that of R’ Chanina Ben Tradyon”. (For those uninitiated, let’s just say that this is an extremely strong expression of trustworthiness and honesty.) All who were even faintly acquainted with Rav Fisher ZTS”L know that such expressions very seldom crossed his lips, if ever. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if he would repeat this phrase today. In fact I’m sure he wouldn’t.

That the Va’ad is a valid, and unfortunately necessary organization is unquestionable. Many of their recipients are tragedy stricken families who lost their livelihood under disastrous circumstances, ranging from fatal illnesses to terror attacks and various accidents. It is beyond the slightest shade of a doubt that not only as Jews, but as human beings, we owe these families our full support. Unfortunately, a non-negligible portion of the Va’ad’s list is made up of people who became public charges totally through their own fault. I am fully aware that self-caused necessity, even through irresponsibility, doesn’t automatically exempt us from the obligation of charity; yet prioritizing our charities is fully permitted, and in fact a quite clear list of priorities exists in halocha, and the aforementioned cases aren’t explicitly on that list, and can be included only in the cases at its bottom.

What I can absolutely not understand is why aren’t there any such big, widely-known and Rabbinically endorsed organizations who’s aim is to try preventing, poverty and debt, instead of only helping after the damage is done. The usual answer to this suggestion is that it would be impossible. Experience, however, shows that with good will such possibilities can very well be explored – frum corporations IDT, and recently Empire Enterprises are actually supporting learning/working individuals as part of their frameworks. Nevertheless, the first step should be a very strong educational emphasis on honesty, integrity, and decency, of which abundant sifrei mussar and other ethical works are full, yet their teaching are still by and large far more abstract than practical. I fully support the notion of devoting one’s life to the study of Torah, yet this has either to come at the expense of material well-being and relinquishing far more than just lavishness, or being rich enough to afford not to work, which in the Yeshiva world is usually accomplished by marrying a rich girl. This option is (un)fortunately open only to those who excel in Torah studies, but gives no-one license to act in an irresponsible and conceited, let alone dishonest way. The same is just as true to those who don’t yearn to consecrate their lives to Torah study, only wish to stay in their cozy enclave and lavishly live its lifestyle – fourteen kids, their healthcare and private education, let alone food and clothing come at a price to say the least – wanting a nice house, nice car and not having to toil for it borders both insanity and criminality.

A charity organization is a tremendous lifesaver to those struck with poverty, yet its support of irresponsible people only encourages more of the same behavior. A fund that helps integrate poor people – whether Kollel vets or otherwise – into the workforce, (preferably frum) helps learning a profession etc. would be far more effective. We’d all be better off if frum business owners would employ their own brothers instead of illegal immigrants whom they anyway must support via the taxes imposed by the corrupt politicians they courted to gain the social services who’s majority is being spent on black slums and unlawful aliens. Lower taxes would then turn to higher wages to our brethren, less charity to spend on them, and the public’s ability to afford these workers.

Wouldn’t modeling ourselves after Yaakov Ovinu, Reb Yochanan HaSandlar and accepting Rav Avigdor Miller’s teachings make more sense?

(Two individual anecdotes related to the subject will follow in the comments section at a later time.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Homo Sapiensual

The act of homosexuality is unequivocally prohibited by the Torah, and even carries capital punishment. Certain Orthodox apologists argue that the Torah underwent reform, and death penalty for an act of homosexuality should not be taken literally. A new school of thought, born out of the necessity to obtain government funding for an Orthodox University, argues that homosexuality per-se is not forbidden without carrying out the act itself. This is in fact true to most crimes, excluding only the few "crimes of the heart", i.e. crimes committed by believing heresy and similar ideas. Of course, immersing oneself in immoral thoughts and planning crimes are also classified as aveiros, ("hirhurim assurim"), yet are not punishable by human courts. So, in principle, the apologists who so loudly condemn the frum parasites who learn in kollel at taxpayers' expense, must surely approve of government funding to Moslem institutions that only believe that Jews and Westerners must be exterminated or converted to Islam - but don't carry out those actions.

The current consensus in modern western culture is that homosexuality is not only a natural, inherent – and therefore acceptable practice, but a noble "way of life", which we must honor and respect. Unfortunately, this ideology is not being shoved down our throats only by the mainstream media, but by so-called Orthodox Jews who, for a great number of reasons, (probably mental disorders and a burning desire to be seen as fair-minded and finding favor in the eyes of radical far-left activists such as Ted Turner, Michael Moore and their poodles in the political arena) are pushing the gay agenda and try forcing it on the Orthodox community. Such extremists unfortunately only justify and reinforce the Orthodox leadership’s (inasmuch as there is such leadership) stance on isolation, the internet ban, alienating the MO community and similar measures.

Let’s therefore be very clear and straightforward about it: homosexuality is a crime, it is wrong, and it is forbidden. The sole reason that the death penalty prescribed in the Torah is not carried out is that Batei-Din are prohibited from carrying out capital punishment after the Churban, period, end of story. The claim that it is a natural, inherent desire does not justify it. Although it is true that executions by Rabbinical Courts were very rare in the Temple’s times, we shall bear in mind that ‘not guilty’ in Jewish law doesn’t automatically mean innocent and set to run free, à-la O.J. Simpson & Ted Kennedy. If there was enough reliable evidence, criminals who weren’t executed were imprisoned for life – and not in Boca-Raton-golf-course-style prisons.

I am extremely curious to know if all the so-called Jewish supporters of the aborted Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem would support incest or bestiality parades as well. For if homosexuality is a “right” – or in any other way legitimate, may someone please explain to me what de-legitimizes pedophilia, incest, bestiality (consensual of course – hysterical animal rights agitators please calm down) or any other extreme sexual deviance? The aforementioned perversions are different from homosexuality on the sole basis of senseless contortions in interminable legal paragraphs. Age of consent and other restrictions on one’s “natural desires” are totally arbitrary if homosexuality is legitimized. If cohabitation between people of the same-sex is legitimate, why isn’t the same legitimacy granted with the same vehemence to relations with animals, children, immediate family or dead corpses? Furthermore, why the natural urges of hatred, anger, envy and free speech are so shunned by the hysterical ill-liberal crowds? After all, to Rosie O’Donnell Arab mass-murderers and child-dismemberers are “moms and dads” – then why can’t poor sexual deviants enjoy the same freedom?

The truth is that the legitimization of homosexuality on the basis of tolerance, rationalism or noetic, drags in its path the inevitable justification of the aforementioned deviances. Once homosexual marriage is universally accepted, the next step will be the justification of other vile perversions.

Interesting to note is that the paragons of tolerance and mutual respect were all shrieking at the top of their voice to shove the Gay Parade down the throats of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Seemingly, the religious majority, as well the secular minority of Jerusalemites have no right to decide which parades should flow down their streets – the enraged gay mafia does. That’s what passes for tolerance and sensibility for the rabid far-left and their faithful minions. If this isn’t Orwell’s nightmare, I wonder what is.

Recently, several bloggers (most notoriously an ex-baal tshuva and a pseudo-Jewish George Soros and Michael Moore follower) started legitimizing the Gay parade by publicizing alleged sexual crimes and misconduct in several mikvaos (Albeit is important to note that the denial of such behavior not only prevents a solution to the problems but adds fuel to our enemies’ fires). It is interesting that the aforementioned holier-than-thou guardians of infallible objectivity rush to inculpate the entire frum world, for alleged actions of a few, while they steadfastly defend the innocence of terrorists and well known murderers who were acquitted or never convicted (O.J. Simpson, Teddy Kennedy, Adolf Hitler and Bill Clinton come to mind).

So, to all the well-intentioned Orthodox Jews who feel the need to apologize to, or appease, or to appear being educated, refined, well-rounded and open minded, please understand that riding two horses simultaneously is impossible. Homosexuality is forbidden by Divine law, and impossible to reject with pure human logic – exactly as the prohibition on shellfish, sha’atnez or flicking the switch on Shabbos. You can’t have it both ways, just as you can’t logically differentiate between homosexuality and other extreme deviances on the basis of tolerance, human rights, or any other argument. Without a base accepted as absolute truth, such as the Torah, there is no logical barrier between good and evil, wrong or right. Any such distinctions are purely arbitrary based on the prevalent social trend or an individual’s mood. So no, Iam not a descendant of the chimp, I am not open-minded and I do not apologize.
I am a bigot.
I am a xenophobe.
I am a homophobe.

And I am right.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Electional Dysfunction

The jubilations of the radical far-left, the “objective” and “non-partisan” mainstream media and their rabid cohorts over the outcome of last Tuesday’s mid-term elections may not be as good for them as they may think. You probably don’t need to listen to talk radio to understand that this vote wasn’t as much about putting hardcore Socialists Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reed in power, than taking softcore liberal/socialists George Bush and his close circle of advisors and bureaucrats out of power. The American Nationalist or Conservative base just had enough of the out-of-control spending, the endless deaths of our soldiers in Iraq and the way the war was mishandled, the Mexican and Canadian borders abandoned and the people themselves ignored.

If anyone honestly thinks that the American people’s positions have shifted to the left due to Bush’s “far right” agenda, as the Communist media and their fork-tongued minions (unfortunately including some “Orthodox” Jews) would like you to believe, they need not look further than the State Ballot Initiatives, on which the vote was by and large very conservative. Different taxes, gay marriage, benefits for illegal immigrants and affirmative action were almost ubiquitously struck down. In Arizona, English was made the official language – that’s not exactly the Michael Moore/Pansy Nelosi kind of position. You can see the state-by-state results here, and decide for yourself.

In short, there is more than one way to look at the last election cycle. Whether the Republican party will succeed in purging the liberal apologists and return to real, Barry Goldwater conservatism – or better yet, a real conservative party will gain foothold in Congress and Senate, time will tell. But the Democrats staying in power definitely mean that we can forget about the white and the blue in our flag. So far, unfortunately, conservative leadership is about as concrete as Orthodox Jewish leadership.

The good news is, that it is more likely.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Fascists Of Israel

Agudas Yisroel could, l'mayseh, do a lot more for the sake of its own name - to try to unify, or at least to diminish the estrangement and animosity between the different factions claiming the exclusive rights for authentic Judaism. Rabbi Mark Dratch of J-Safe said in an interview (regarding the Mondrowitz sodomy case): “…As an outsider to the Catholic Church, it seems to me that there is an infrastructure or a hierarchy and they have the mechanism, they really do have the mechanism to effect systemic change in a much easier way in a much more efficient way and a much quicker way because of that hierarchy,” Dratch said. “In the Orthodox world, we don’t have such a hierarchy. There is no pope and there are no levels of responsibility and answerability.” Dratch said there is no way to really gauge how widespread the problem is in the community, “because of this conspiracy of silence.”

And here lies the real problem, in my humble opinion. No centralized authority means no one to answer to. And no one to answer to means anarchy. Of course, compared to out and out anarchy we aren't doing too bad, but that of course is not what we want to measure our standards against. Even if we can't immediately achieve idyllic harmony among our entire nation, there is still ample room for improvement in the current situation. But since it is easier and more comfortable to run a small, tightly knit community without having to answer to anyone but G-d, - and the standards for that answerability are self-set - membership in the central organizations is mostly nominal, and de-facto ineffective from the broader community's standpoint. In other words, most leaders/Rabbonim in the Agudah, RCA or UJC tend to look after their own respective communities than the collective good of Klal Yisroel.

* *

Fascist and Fascism nowadays have become words epitomizing the sum of all evil. The strongest expression to attack, denigrate and voice contempt of someone is "Fascist", and has become a synonym of Nazi, and all totalitarian, racist regimes. But in fact, quite little is being taught about real Fascism, and who the Fascists really were. The only bona-fide Fascist government in History was Benito Mussolini’s Italy, wherein a very large numbers of Jews were party members, even prior to the war. After Hitler demanded the enacting of race laws in Italy, most Jews were made nominal members of the party, in order to escape race laws. Even the Italian anti-Semitic party was opposed to the extermination and deportation of Jews to Germany. Not that Mussolini’s alliance with Hitler is in any way forgivable, but these little details haven’t made it into most history textbooks, neither to most Jews’ consciousness either. In fact, Hannah Arendt’s book The Origins of Totalitarianism, considered as one of the definitive works on political theory in general and totalitarianism specifically, traces Nazism and Communism –but not Fascism- to a common root.

The literal meaning of fasces is Italian for bundle (or brindle)- implying power through unity, inspired by popular legend wherein a father on his deathbed summoned his sons, and gave each a brindle and ordered them to break it, which they easily did. He then instructed them to try breaking a bundle of brindles - in which they couldn't succeed. The obvious lesson was that keeping together would save them from harm.

* *

Although the Agudah’s national public policy position paper is generally good, valid, and acceptable to most Orthodox Jews, (although many points are quite debatable) it is a pity that the organization is so distant from the Jewish community itself, and the immediate interests of the community at large. Instead of pushing for pro-Israel, anti-abortion, human rights, social services etc., the Agudah could in fact carry an internal, or pan-Jewish, policy containing guidelines regarding batei-din, educational institutions and such. This would probably diminish a great deal the multitudes of small batei-din ignoring and invalidating each other, which is a major factor in the large numbers of agunos, heterei agunos, heteri meah rabbonim and such. Or at least to raise awareness to those problems in their publications, to push for unity and end the sinas-chinom induced meshigassen.

And since our good friends the "Progressives" (whether reform, far left, pseudo-orthodox, anti-religious “frei” or any other Jew-haters) anyway accuse us of being fascists, we might as well live up to the literal meaning of that word - and in fact the name of one of the most important Orthodox Jewish organizations - Agudas Yisroel.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Malice In Holyland

This is a must read - got the tip from my fifth-and-a-half cousin in israel, Ben Bayit. The English text reproduced here without permission (if it violates any copyrights please let me know and I'll take it off) as well as the original hebrew text are accessible from here.

Alice in Holyland
by: Moshe Feiglin
Founder and President, Manhigut Yehudit
(All quotes are from
"Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll)

'Would you tell me, please,which way I ought to go from here?' asked Alice.
'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.

"Where do I really want to go?" Alice asked herself. "Why don't I know what my goal is? Nobody has told me..." "Where am I supposed to go?" Alice asked the teacher
in school. "You need an advanced course in computers," the teacher answered. "Excellence and economic success are of utmost importance. That is what is written in the last circular that I received from the Education Ministry. Alice became a computer expert and made a lot of money as she was taught to do. She bought a jeep with a state of the art GPS but the cat's question remained unanswered.
"Now I can get there easily," Alice said to herself. "But I still don't know where I want to go.... Actually, though, my destination really doesn't matter. The main thing is to keep going, is it not?"

'I don't much care where' -- said Alice.
'Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.

And so Alice continued her journey through Holyland. She couldn't quite decide on a goal because she had simply forgotten who she is. A Jew? A Democrat? An Israeli? And
maybe she is simply a citizen of the entire world?

'Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is, Who in the world am I? Ah, that'sthe great puzzle!'

As there was no identity in Holyland, and no path as a result, all that was left was the process of walking. Every path was acceptable. For example, a pale politician was
chosen to be President in an effort to cork a political hole. In Holyland, tens of settlements were destroyed just to keep the king out of jail. And the governmental regime was changed to suit the needs of whoever wanted to join the coalition. Actually not. They just said that they would change the method. Alice felt that something was strange. Everything seemed upside down. Instead of the dog wagging his tail, the tail wagged the dog -- and it was not really clear who was the tail and who was the dog.

'Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin,' thought Alice; 'but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!'

And then a strange war broke out in Holyland. It was like a game that the king started to prove his wisdom and courage. In Holyland, there is no identity or goal, so the army is made of cards. At first, the enemy was very frightened by the card soldiers and their plasma screens. But they soon discovered that if they attack from the side, the soldiers have no depth. In other words, there is nothing really there.

Who cares for you?' said Alice, (she had grown to her full size by this time.) 'You're nothing but a pack of cards'!

The cards actually tried very hard to win. They thought that they were real soldiers because surely the king had some sort of goal. So they fought with great courage and
many of them were cut into pieces because they didn't understand that they really weren't soldiers and that they were only a pack of cards. Between us -- how can you win when you don't know who you are and the king doesn't have a goal? When the war got too complicated, the king stopped the game.

'But who has won?'
This question the Dodo could not answer without a great deal of thought, and it sat for a long time with one finger pressed upon its forehead (the position in which you usually see Shakespeare, in the pictures of him), while the rest waited in silence. At last the Dodo said, 'everybody has won, and all must have prizes.'

Despite the impressive victory, the card soldiers began to blame each other. All sorts of aces and former princes appeared one after the other on the news shows and
demanded an investigation.

'I couldn't help it,' said Five, in a sulky tone; 'Seven jogged
my elbow.'
On which Seven looked up and said, 'That's right, Five! Always lay the blame on others!'
'You'd better not talk!' said Five. 'I heard the Queen say only yesterday you deserved to be beheaded!'
'What for?' said the one who had spoken first.
'That's none of your business, Two!' said Seven.
'Yes, it is his business!' said Five'

In the meantime, Alice got hungry. The money that she had made in hi-tech was all spent on Separation Fences and sophisticated Arrow missiles that were supposed to
provide the card soldiers -- and all of Holyland -- with depth. Money also had to be spent to compensate the Arab martyrs in the North and Alice was absolutely penniless. She tried to eat a plasma screen, when the Queen of Hearts -- who
made her fortune from modern art, social struggles and harassing soldiers at roadblocks -- suddenly appeared.

'I want some bread!' said Alice to the Queen of Hearts.
'There is bread yesterday and tomorrow, but never today,'
answered the Queen.

So Alice waited in line in front of one of the soup kitchens. Even the king had once tasted their soup and said that it was very good.

'But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked. 'Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: 'we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'
'How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
'You must be,' said the Cat, 'or you wouldn't have come here.'

This is, by the way, true not only for the current Israeli political climate, but for the current psychological climate in certain areas of the "J-Blogosphere".