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Famous Last Words

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are pictured in the Oval Office, Nov. 29, 2012.

What does one say on such an occasion?

“Would you care for some dog?”

“Yes, it was actually Kenya. Now I’ll have to kill you.”

“Wanna’ see some amazing Area 51 photos?”

“Why don’t you buy yourself an island and become their president?”

“We were looking for a good nuclear waste dump and, guess what, Utah’s name came up.”

“I could really use your clout in negotiating with the Republicans…”

That last one would probably sting the worst. Unlike senator McCain, who kept his day job back in 2008, Romney is just going to have to retire with nothing to his name other than $300 million, give or take.

And he doesn’t even drink or smoke. I can’t believe only 30% of the Jews voted for him. What’s wrong with you, people?

Meanwhile, President Obama will be preparing to go after Netanyahu for the expansion of Jerusalem all the way to Maale Adumim, virtually scrapping the idea of a contiguous Palestinian state.

“Care for some dog?”

Laptop Liability

Friday, November 30th, 2012

“Hi, Levi,” said his friend Moshe. “I’ve got a project to work on for the next two months. By any chance, do you have a spare laptop you’re willing to lend for the duration?”

“Funny that you’re asking,” replied Levi. “I just bought a new laptop but am planning to keep the old one as a spare. If you want to borrow it for two months, that’s fine.”

“Great!” exclaimed Moshe appreciatively. “When can I come by for it?’

“I’m not home today,” said Levi, “but any time tomorrow would be fine.”

The following day, Moshe came by and picked up the laptop.

A week later, while Moshe was working in the library, Baruch came by to visit. “I see you got yourself a laptop,” Baruch said. “When did you buy it?”

“Actually it belongs to Levi, a friend of mine,” said Moshe. “I borrowed it for two months to work on the project.”

While they were talking, Baruch accidentally knocked the laptop off the table. It fell to the floor and cracked.

Moshe picked up the laptop and examined it. “It’s ruined,” he said to Baruch. “The laptop is smashed and cannot be repaired. You’ll have to pay me for the laptop.”

“It wasn’t your laptop,” said Baruch. “I don’t owe you anything. When Levi asks for his money, I’ll pay him. For all I know, he’s not going to ask you to pay, anyway.”

Moshe called Levi. “A friend of mine, Baruch, broke the laptop you loaned me,” he said.

“Although I bought a new laptop, I still want the old one,” said Levi. “You’ll have to pay for it.”

“Baruch ruined the laptop, though,” Moshe said to him. “Ask him for the money.”

“I don’t know Baruch; I have nothing to do with him,” replied Levi emphatically. “You borrowed the laptop, you are liable for it. Either pay or get the money from Baruch and give it to me.”

Levi contacted Baruch, “Levi said that I should get the money from you,” he said.

“You’re responsible for the laptop,” said Baruch. “After you pay Levi, I’ll pay you, not beforehand!”

Frustrated, Moshe went back to Levi. “Baruch refuses to pay me until I pay you,” he said, “but why I should pay if he damaged the laptop? I don’t have the money to lay out.”

“It’s not fair that you push me from one to the other,” said Levi. “My head is spinning! Let’s take it up with Rabbi Dayan.”

Levi and Moshe went to Rabbi Dayan. “Who is liable for the laptop?” asked Levi. “Moshe, who borrowed the laptop, or Baruch, who damaged it?”

“The Gemara (B.K. 111b) addresses a similar case,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “If someone steals an item and then another person comes along and consumes it, both are accountable to the owner. The thief is liable because he stole the item. Nonetheless, the item still belongs to its owner, so that the one who consumed it damaged his property. Therefore, the owner can collect from either party, or even partial payment from one and partial payment from the other. The same is true in your case.” (C.M. 361:5)

“But I didn’t steal anything here,” objected Moshe. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“True, but a borrower is accountable to the owner for his item, even if lost through uncontrollable circumstances (oness),” replied Rabbi Dayan. (C.M. 340:1) “Thus, you owe Levi. Still, since the laptop was Levi’s property, Baruch is also liable toward him, so that Levi can collect from either of you.”

“Can I demand payment of the laptop from Baruch now, or only Levi?” asked Moshe. “Does Levi owe me anything?”

“Because you are responsible to pay for the laptop, and Baruch caused you a direct loss (garmi) by breaking it, he has accountability to you also,” answered Rabbi Dayan. “On the other hand, let’s say Levi were to forgo payment, you would not be able to demand payment from Baruch, since he did not damage your laptop and did not cause you any loss.” (See Pischei Choshen, Geneivah 4:34)

“What about the fact that I don’t have use of the laptop to finish the project?” asked Moshe.

“The Nesivos (341:11) suggests a novel idea regarding this,” said Rabbi Dayan. “Since you borrowed the laptop for two months, you have a legal right to use the item for that time; Moshe could not demand it back until the two months were up. Therefore, the Nesivos maintains that the value of that usage, the laptop’s depreciation, is owed to you, the borrower – not Levi, the owner. This only applies, though, if the item’s nature and the duration of the loan are such that the usage entails an accruable depreciation of the item. (See Chukei Chaim – Hichos She’eilah 2:12; P.C., Pikadon 9:14)

Mountains Hanging On Hairs

Friday, November 30th, 2012

You arrive home after shul on Friday night. All the dishes washed before Shabbat are locked in the dishwasher. You have no other eating utensils and you want to retrieve them for the Friday night meal. In order to take them out you have to unlock the door by turning the lever lock to the left. The action of the lever to unlock the door automatically turns off the panel indicator lights that advise you the dishwashing cycle is complete. So you cannot open the door without turning off the lights. What do you do?

Clearly, the act of retrieving the dishes from the dishwasher is, in itself, a permissible act on Shabbat. The problem is that it inevitably causes the melachah of switching off the indicator lights. This melachah is the inevitable and unintended result of retrieving the dishes, though it is of no use to its performer. An inevitable melachah that is of no use to its performer and that arises out of a permitted act is known in halachic terminology as psik reishe de lo neecha leh. We shall refer to it as the “inevitable, unwanted melachah.”

If one performed an inevitable, unwanted melachah, one is patur, which means exempt from any biblical liability. The question is whether one is allowed under rabbinical law to deliberately perform an inevitable, unwanted melachah such as, for example, turning the indicator lights off in order to retrieve the dishes.

The answer to this question depends on the classification of the inevitable, unwanted melachah and the existence or absence of any mitigating circumstances. If the inevitable, unwanted melachah is biblically prohibited, then according to the majority of halachic opinions one may not deliberately perform the permitted act that causes it. There is a minority opinion – that of the Aruch – that permits it, but the halacha does not adopt this minority opinion.

Accordingly, one may not, for example, wash one’s hands over a public lawn because even though washing one’s hands is permitted on Shabbat, it causes the inevitable, unwanted result of watering the grass. And watering the grass on Shabbat is classified under the biblical melachah of plowing and sowing.

Similarly, one may not open a door to the street on a windy day when the inevitable, unwanted result of the permitted act will be that lighted candles placed next to the door blow out.

What if the inevitable, unwanted melachah is not biblically prohibited but only rabbinically prohibited? Still, according to the majority of opinions, one may not deliberately perform the permitted act that causes the rabbinical melachah, except in a limited number of mitigating circumstances. Physical pain or discomfort or the performance of a mitzvah are examples of mitigating circumstances that might permit one to deliberately perform the permitted act that causes the inevitable, unwanted rabbinical melachah.

For example, trapping a bird inside one’s home is rabbinically prohibited. Yet if a wild bird flew into one’s house in winter, one would be allowed to close the windows to avoid the cold. This act is permitted even though it causes the inevitable, unwanted rabbinical melachah of trapping.

If the red berries on the hadas, the myrtle branch, are more numerous than the myrtle leaves, the hadas is invalid for arba minim. Yet if a friend of the hadas owner picks off the berries on Yom Tov for food, the owner of the hadas would be permitted to use it for the mitzvah of arba minim. Picking the berries in this way is permitted even though it causes the inevitable, unwanted melachah of fixing something for use – makeh bepatish – because it enables the performance of a mitzvah.

Is the inevitable, unwanted melachah of turning off the dishwasher indicator lights a biblical melachah or a rabbinical melachah? The biblical melachah of extinguishing fire was performed in the Sanctuary to produce glowing embers needed to smelt metal. Extinguishing fire for any other purpose not used in the Sanctuary is called a melachah she’eina tzericha legufa. Although biblically exempt from liability once performed, a melachah she’eina tzericha legufa is rabbinically prohibited and should not be deliberately performed. The majority of modern poskim agree that turning off an electric light involves the act of extinguishing fire and is therefore prohibited under the category of melachah she’eina tericah legufa. It is further accepted that the rabbis are less lenient with the melachah of extinguishing fire than with other rabbinical melachot.

Anti-Semitic Cartoons at the Guardian

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

On Nov. 16, we posted about a political cartoon in the Guardian by Steve Bell, Nov. 15, depicting British foreign minister, and former PM Tony Blair, as puppets being controlled by Israeli PM Netanyahu, in the context of expressions of support for Israel from both British leaders during operation ‘Pillar Of Defense.’

We noted the strong similarities to other cartoons evoking the historical canard that Jews secretly control of non-Jewish world leaders, such as this from 2008 in a Saudi paper depicting a sinister Jew controlling both McCain and Obama as puppets.

Among those who complained to Guardian editors about the cartoon by Bell was Mark Gardner of the CST, whose letter appeared in the Guardian on Nov. 16, and read thus:

“The Guardian has, in recent years, editorialised against the use of antisemitic language, publishing strong articles on this subject by Chris Elliott (the readers’ editor), Jonathan Freedland and others. They have rightly noted that such language may well be inadvertent on the part of the user, while retaining its offensive power. Nevertheless, too many Guardian contributors continue to get away with using antisemitic imagery and tropes, the latest example being Steve Bell’s cartoon (16 November) showing Tony Blair and William Hague as puppets of Bibi Netanyahu. This is an unoriginal way of visualising the old antisemitic charge that Jews are all-powerful. (The notion of Jewish power and conspiracy has long distinguished antisemitism from other racisms, which tend to depict their targets as idiots.) The paper’s integrity and reputation is seriously compromised by its continuing failure to get a grip on its own content.”

The cartoonist himself, Steve Bell, defended his cartoon against charges of antisemitism, arguing as follows:

“I can’t be held responsible for whatever cultural precepts and misapprehensions people choose to bring to my cartoon.”

On Sun, Nov. 25, the Guardian’s readers editor, Chris Elliott, addressed the row in a column titled ‘The readers’ editor on… accusations of antisemitism against a political cartoon’.

Here are relevant excerpts from his post:

Bell … is adamant that the cartoon, based on an agency picture of a Netanyahu press conference, is neither intentionally, nor unintentionally antisemitic.

There are two paths to the argument about the imagery of the cartoon. The first is that it is an incontrovertible fact that, during the 1930s and 1940s, Nazis and their supporters deployed propaganda devices about Jews. One of those images was that of a grotesquely drawn Jew shown as a puppeteer, with exaggerated features, as in the cartoon portraying Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin as puppets of the Jews in a 1942 issue of the Nazi paper Fliegende Blätter.

The image of Jews having a disproportionate influence over the US and British governments has often been replicated by anti-Jewish cartoonists in the Middle East since the end of the second world war.

Secondly, one of the difficulties is that pictorial stereotypes are the stock in trade of a cartoonist, an aspect of caricature that has an entirely legitimate centuries-old tradition. Bell has used the theme of a puppet master on many occasions in the past to represent his view of Presidents Mubarak and Putin, as well as leaders in Iraqi and Afghan politics.

Bell is aware that the image of Jews as puppet masters is an antisemitic theme. However, he does not accept that this should prevent him using that imagery to address the actions of Netanyahu, the man. Bell says: “The problem with this whole debate is that the premises are all wrong. The cartoon isn’t antisemitic. People may proclaim that it is and [that it] stands in some kind of nefarious line: it has been lifted [from the Guardian website] without permission, and run alongside some terrible examples of nasty cartoons from the Nazi period (which clearly are [antisemitic]). That does not make the cartoon antisemitic. Here lies the problem: once people start dignifying this utterly unfair and unreasonable comparison with faux intellectual terms like ‘antisemitic trope’ it blots out the fact that my cartoon lacks the central ‘trope’ of actually being antisemitic. It doesn’t generalise about a race, a religion or a people; it doesn’t try to characterise any such generalisation: it is a very specific cartoon about a very specific politician at a very specific and deadly dangerous moment. It does employ the trope of ‘puppeteer’, but that is a trope, not an antisemitic trope… It uses the Star of David because that’s what is on the flag, and the menorah because that’s what’s on his podium. They both say: ‘State of Israel’, not ‘The Jews’. There is a crucial difference. It is not subtle or coded antisemitism to make this point.”

Yeshivish, the Language

Monday, November 26th, 2012

One of my personal pleasures these days is listening to an Iyun Kal (“lightly in depth”) Shiur on Shas Illuminated. This is a website designed for people who learn Daf Yomi and want t go into a bit more depth on the subject matter discussed in that day’s Gemarah. I have promoted this website a couple of times since my own son is one of the Magidei Shiur (lecturers). He did the first Perek (chapter) in Shabbos and is due to do the 12th Perek. Having it ‘spoon fed’ to me daily is quite a treat.

I love listening what various Rishonim, Achronim, and modern day Poskim have say on the those Sugyos (topics). I get quite a bit out of someone else’s hard work researching those sources.

But I wonder how many people are able to understand the language spoken by some of the Magidei Shiur. One might ask, “Don’t they give those Shiurim in English?” The answer is, sort of. The language they use is something called Yeshivish. That is a combination of English, Hebrew, Yiddish, and Aramaic.

For most people who have attended a Yeshiva through high school and beyond – this is not a problem. This is the way most of us have learned Torah. We use this “Language of Learning”. It is in our blood. Using words like “Mutar and “Assur” are far more natural for us than using their English translations of “permitted” and “forbidden”. It is far more comfortable for us to use the language of the Talmud itself in certain words and expressions.

In fact this is one of the problems I have with ArtScroll English Shas. They translate too much. But I am not criticizing them for that. I actually applaud them for it. They should use as pristine a version of the English language as possible so that everyone can study the Talmud despite their backgrounds.

So what’s my problem? It is the following. If one becomes accustomed to using Yeshivish instead of English one may actually come to forget how to speak the language. Not everyone will be able to understand them. In some cases the Yeshivish becomes so ingrained and so extreme that they become completely incomprehensible to the untrained ear. They may not even realize that normal English speaking non Yeshivishe people have no clue what they are saying.

I will never forget a Sheva Brachos I attended one time. The Chasan’s older brother who was born and raised in America but had been learning in a Yeshiva for over a decade after he was married was asked to speak. He realized that not everyone in the room understood Yeshivish and said so.

He therefore said that he was going to say his D’var Torah in English. And he proceeded to speak incomprehensible Yeshivish anyway. Makes me wonder what his actual Yeshivish sounded like. The point is, however, that he actually thought he was speaking English!

This is a tremendous failing in the right wing Yeshiva world. Secular studies are denigrated so much that the ability to communicate with the non Yeshiva world is completely hampered. These students are either never taught or they completely ignore English grammar and never try to increase their vocabulary.

I don’t think I am alone in noting that this is a problem. I believe that many even right wing Roshei Yeshiva believe it is a problem. I recall reading that Rav Avreimal Ausband, the Rosh HaYeshiva of Telshe Yeshiva of Riverdale saying he felt this way. And yet I don’t believe that any Roshei Yeshiva are doing anything about it.

If the right wing wants to communicate their ideas to an educated Orthodox public, speaking or writing in Yeshivish will not do the trick. They should be able to put together complete sentences that do not contain Yeshivishe words.

Nor will they be able to even teach Torah to anyone who has not gone through the Yeshiva system. Which brings me back to The Magedei Shiur at Shas Illuminated. They are all Tamidei Chachmim, Talmudic scholars. But not all of them speak English – even though they think they are.

My son does. In his Shiurim on that website, he utilizes the vocabulary and English grammar he learned in high school and college. Although he also uses some Yeshivishe words, they are only the ones that are most commonly used. His Shiurim are therefore more broadly understood. But some of the other Magidei Shiur use a Yeshivishe jargon that only those with a serious Yeshivishe background will understand.

Stuff In The Fridge

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Among the many things we were tested with during Hurricane Sandy was the way in which we can preserve our food in the middle of a disaster.

My family spreads out from Flatbush to Boro Park, Staten Island, New Jersey and Monsey. Two of my sons, Baruch Hashem, had previously bought generators. They successfully used them to prevent loss of their food, while waiting for their electric to be repaired in their respective neighborhoods. However, many others have been without power for weeks now.

Whenever I do Tupperware demonstrations where I share my freezer tricks, I stress how important it is to always have a full freezer. In case of a blackout, an unopened full freezer will keep fresh for 72 hours before the food will have to be used or tossed out! If the freezer is not full, the food will only last 12 hours!

What do you do if you haven’t gone shopping or cooked enough food to fill your freezer? There is a trick I recommend to fool your freezer into “acting” like it is full.

Fill any container you have with water. Tear small strips of blank paper and tuck it in each container so most of it hangs out of the container and is visible to you. Once, frozen, they containers will fill up the air space in your freezer allowing it to work at full capacity. If you stand next to your refrigerator, you will hear the motor going on and off less often due as it will be working more efficiently!

Another quick tip, this one about ice crystals forming in containers, which is not unusual. It can happen as a result of rapid temperatures, the amount of moisture in the food being stored, and the amount of air space in the container.

When a sealed container is placed in the freezer, it undergoes a quick change in temperature. When it is coupled with the colder freezer air, it draws out the moisture from the air and surface of the contents. Should you wish to eliminate these crystals, place a sheet of crumpled wax paper directly on the food you are freezing. This uses up the air space. Several popular brands of ice cream now have layer of plastic wrap attached to the cover of the carton for this purpose.

Now, what about the food in the refrigerator food? Or how do you know if something has gone bad?

EGGS–When something starts pecking its way out of the shell, the egg is probably past its prime!

DAIRY PRODUCTS—Milk is spoiled when it starts to look like yogurt. Yogurt is spoiled when it starts to look like cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is spoiled when it starts to look like regular cheese. Regular cheese is nothing but spoiled milk anyway and can’t get any more spoiled that it is already. Cheddar cheese is spoiled when you think it is blue cheese, but you realize you’ve never purchased that kind!

BREAD—Sesame seeds and poppy seeds are the only officially acceptable “spots” that should be seen on the surface of any loaf of bread. Fuzzy and hairy looking white or green growth, are a good indication that your bread has turned into a pharmaceutical laboratory experiment.

FLOUR—Flour is spoiled when it has polka dots that wiggle!

CANNED GOODS—Any canned goods that have become the size or shape of a softball should be disposed of – carefully.

CARROTS—A carrot that you can tie a clove hitch in is not fresh!

RAISINS—Raisins should not be harder than your teeth.

POTATOES—Fresh potatoes do not have roots, branches, or dense, leafy undergrowth.

CHIP DIP—If you can take it out of its container and bounce it on the floor, it has gone bad.

UNMARKED ITEMS—You know it is well beyond prime, when you’re tempted to discard the container along with the food! Generally speaking, containers should not burp when you open them!

Going through a disaster, does give us a renewed perspective on keeping our families safer and our food storage intact and not spoiled.

What we can all use these days is lots of comfort foods and one of my favorites is Vegetable Barley Soup! I may have already shared this recipe with you, but it does bear repeating! I give credit to my daughter-in-law, Laya, for introducing the soup to use several years ago.

Group Effort

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

These IDF soldiers decided to express how they felt about their political leadership using their most precious possessions: their uniform-clad bodies.

So they got together and formed the words “Bibi Loser” in the sand.

It’s grammatically incomplete, and the use of Hebrew letters to write an English statement is questionable, but there’s no doubt about the clarity of their message.

Took the words right out of my mouth.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/photos/group-effort/2012/11/23/

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