Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Jews, Sports and Aly Raisman

This just in:
Aly Raisman, who won the first all-time U.S. gold medal on floor exercise at an Olympics and who also earned the bronze on the balance beam at the 2012 Olympics, will be inducted into The National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame & Museum, 74 Hauppage Road, Commack, N.Y., on April 21, 2013. Aly, Captain of ‘The Fierce Five’ USA Women’s Gymnastics Team, also earned a gold medal in the Team All-Around, making her the most decorated U.S. gymnast at the 2012 Olympics.

“This is a great honor,” Raisman said when notified of her induction. “Just last year I was given the Pearl D. Mazor Award and now I am being inducted.” The Pearl D Mazor Award is presented annually by The National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame & Museum to the outstanding Jewish female high school scholar-athlete of the year in the United States.

“It was a tremendous thrill to see one of our Hall of Fame family competing at the London Olympics,” said Hall of Fame Chairman Lynne Kramer. “And even greater to see Aly won three medals is absolutely amazing.” Raisman joins gymnasts Kerri Strug and Mitch Gaylord who have already been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
I found it interesting that individuals from the "People of the Book" decided to set up a separate "Sports Hall of Fame". Here is the apparent raison d'etre for this hall of fame, taken from the front page of its web site:
The National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum is dedicated to honoring Jewish individuals that have distinguished themselves in the field of sports. The objective is to foster Jewish identity through athletics.

In a world where stereotype and prejudice have not yet been eradicated, the Hall of Fame reminds us of heroes of the courts and playing fields, who have emerged from a people not commonly associated with sports.
I doubt that Jewish identity can be fostered through athletics. Jewish identity is best fostered the old-fashioned way: Torah! Torah! Torah! When young Jews know what being Jewish is really about, they will want to remain Jewish.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Court Rejects Corrie Family's Law Suit Against the Israeli Defense Ministry

This was a no-brainer:
A Haifa court ruled Tuesday morning that Rachel Corrie caused her own death by intentionally remaining in front of an IDF bulldozer. Her lawyer said he will appeal the decision.

Judge Oded Gershon supported the IDF claim that the driver of the bulldozer could not see Corrie, who was protesting the 2003 demolition of homes in Rafiah, Gaza, which were being used by terrorists.

The court noted that the case of Corrie is sad but that the young woman, who was 23 years old, was fully aware that she was in danger and that she could have prevented her own death by moving out of the path of the bulldozer.
An article at ynetnews has some more details:
"I reject the suit," the judge said. "There is no justification to demand the state pay any damages."

He added that the soldiers had done their utmost to keep people away from the site. "She (Corrie) did not distance herself from the area, as any thinking person would have done."

He rejected a claim of negligence explaining that the bulldozer's driver had limited vision unlike Corrie. "She consciously put herself in harm's way," Gershon said. The accident had been self inflicted, he added.

In a 162-verdict, the Judge Gershon pointed to three entry bans and noted that the Philadelphi route had effectively been a war zone formally declared a closed military zone at the time of the accident. He mentioned that the US had issued an Israel travel advisory warning its citizens to avoid Gaza and the West Bank.

The judge added that the organization where Corrie worked "abuses the human rights discourse to blur its actions which are de facto violence. He claimed that it specialized in disrupting IDF activity. "This included an army of activists serving as 'human shields' for terrorists wanted by Israeli security forces, financial and logistical aid to Palestinians including terrorists and their families, and disruption of the sealing of suicide bombers' houses."

Judge Gershon also rejected the Corrie family's claims that Military Police had not done its best to investigate the incident.
Like I wrote, this is a no-brainer.

Update: Jerusalem Diaries has a translation of the court's decision.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Biblical Wi-Fi Donkey?

Some people just cannot part from the internet:
An Israeli attraction meant to immerse tourists in an authentic, ancient biblical experience has outfitted its donkeys with wi-fi. At the historical park of Kfar Kedem in northern Israel, visitors dressed in biblical robes ride donkeys through the rolling hills of the Galilee, learning how people lived in Old Testament times.

Now they can also surf the web while touring the land of the Bible on one of the oldest forms of transportation. A device slung around the donkey's neck like a feedbag is actually a wi-fi hotspot.
I guess that is what you call progress.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

HH Blurb

It's been a while since I posted one of these. This week's edition is here. Enjoy!

Aly Raisman: Not a Tattoo Kind of Person

While many Olympic athletes, such as fellow teen phenom 2012 Olympic swimming gold medalist Missy Franklin, mark their achievement with a tattoo of the Olympic rings, “I’d rather just have this necklace. It has the Olympic rings on it,” she said of a gold medallion given to her by a friend. “I’m not a tattoo kind of person.”
I wonder if this is a matter of taste, or if Aly Raisman is consciously avoiding the Torah prohibition of getting a tattoo. In any case, bravo to her for not getting one. You can read a little more about the subject of Tattoos and Judaism here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Elul -To Learn the Entire Tanach

Rabbi Dovid Sears mentions an interesting Elul custom among Breslov hassidim:
Reb Nosson praises the custom of reading the entire TaNaKH during the days of Elul and Tishrei, finishing on Hoshanah Rabbah (See Otzar haYirah, Teshuvas haShanah, Elul).
בִּימֵי אֱלוּל וַעֲשֶׂרֶת יְמֵי תְּשׁוּבָה וְיָמִים נוֹרָאִים עַד הוֹשַׁעְנָא רַבָּא, צִוָּה לְכַמָּה אֲנָשִׁים לוֹמַר אָז כָּל סִפְרֵי תַּנַ"ךְ מִתְּחִלָּתָם וְעַד סוֹפָם, וְגַם הוּא בְּעַצְמוֹ נָהַג כָּךְ כַּמָּה פְּעָמִים. גַּם הָיָה גּוֹמֵר כַּמָּה סְפָרִים בַּיָּמִים הַלָּלוּ, וְאֵינִי זוֹכֵר לְבָאֲרָם הֵיטֵב
This is quite a hefty task to finish the entire Tanach in 40 days. Why should one learn Tanach at this time of year in particular?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

More Elul Stuff

Here is a look at Elul from a hassidic perspective:
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi explains the paradox of Elul with the following metaphor: The king's usual place is in the capital city, in the royal palace. Anyone wishing to approach the king must go through the appropriate channels in the palace bureaucracy and gain the approval of a succession of secretaries and ministers. He must journey to the capital and pass through the many gates, corridors and antechambers that lead to the throne room. His presentation must be meticulously prepared, and he must adhere to an exacting code of dress, speech and mannerism upon entering into the royal presence.

However, there are times when the king comes out to the fields outside the city. At such times, anyone can approach him; the king receives them all with a smiling face and a radiant countenance. The peasant behind his plow has access to the king in a manner unavailable to the highest ranking minister in the royal court when the king is in the palace.

The month of Elul, says Rabbi Schneur Zalman, is when the king is in the field.
Read the whole thing!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Getting Into the Elul Mood

Here is an excellent lesson from Rabbi Avraham Shapira zt"l called The Power of Preparation. I think that it can help us get into the Elul mood:
Each year, in the month of Elul, I call to mind how the Hafetz Haim used to conduct himself at this time of the year. I used to attend prayer services in Zichron Moshe. Many great rabbanim who had come to Eretz Israel from Russia had made Zichron Moshe their home and place of prayer and study. Among them was the Rav of Radin (Poland), R. Zalman Sender, who was also a relation of HaRav Herzog. He would tell me about the Hafetz Haim who used to live in Radin. The Hafetz Haim was not the Rav of Radin. He served as Rav for a time and then resigned, and lived there as a simple member of the community. And from this too - from the manner in which the Hafetz Haim lived as a simple member of the community - there is much to be learned.

Years later when R. Sender was in Eretz Israel, he would tell me how, each year, on the Shabbath preceding Rosh Hodesh Elul, when the blessing for the new month was said, and the hazan announced: "Rosh Hodesh Elul will be on this and this day..." the Hafetz Haim would begin to tremble and shake! It was not yet Elul, but the mere mention of the month was enough to cause the Hafetz Haim to be filled with trembling.
Read the rest!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Jezreel Valley

Here is a small portion of the valley, as seen from the observation tower near Givat HaMore:

Isn't it beautiful?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Fareed Zakaria: Busted!

Plagiarism is a form of theft. It is also an indication of intellectual dishonesty. Columnist Fareed Zakaria, who was touted as a candidate for Secretary of State, got busted by NewsBusters:
When CNN host and Time editor-at-large Fareed Zakaria wrote a new piece called “The Case for Gun Control,” it ended with a bang “So when people throw up their hands and say we can't do anything about guns, tell them they're being un-American--and unintelligent.”

Here’s something that suggests a lack of intelligence: plagiarism. Cam Edwards at suggested to me that Zakaria seemed to plagiarize a paragraph from an April article in The New Yorker magazine -- with a modicum word-usage changes and interjections (Texas!) in an attempt to paper it over. Here’s a paragraph from his Time piece:

Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at UCLA, documents the actual history in Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America. Guns were regulated in the U.S. from the earliest years of the Republic. Laws that banned the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813. Other states soon followed: Indiana in 1820, Tennessee and Virginia in 1838, Alabama in 1839 and Ohio in 1859. Similar laws were passed in Texas, Florida and Oklahoma. As the governor of Texas (Texas!) explained in 1893, the "mission of the concealed deadly weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law-abiding man."

Compare that in its organization to this paragraph from a Jill Lepore New Yorker article from April:

As Adam Winkler, a constitutional-law scholar at U.C.L.A., demonstrates in a remarkably nuanced new book, “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” firearms have been regulated in the United States from the start. Laws banning the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813, and other states soon followed: Indiana (1820), Tennessee and Virginia (1838), Alabama (1839), and Ohio (1859). Similar laws were passed in Texas, Florida, and Oklahoma. As the governor of Texas explained in 1893, the “mission of the concealed deadly weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law-abiding man."

Voila! Xerox Zakaria!
Now, that's what I call busted!

In contrast, is interesting to note that Judaism is very fond of giving credit where credit is due. It is considered one of the qualities that one needs in order to acquire Torah:
Torah is greater than the priesthood or sovereignty, for sovereignty is acquired with thirty virtues, the priesthood with twenty-four, and Torah is acquired with forty-eight qualities. These are: study, listening, verbalizing, comprehension of the heart, awe, fear, humility, joy, purity, serving the sages, companionship with one's contemporaries, debating with one's students, tranquility, study of the scriptures, study of the Mishnah, minimizing engagement in business, minimizing socialization, minimizing pleasure, minimizing sleep, minimizing talk, minimizing gaiety, slowness to anger, good heartedness, faith in the sages, acceptance of suffering, knowing one's place, satisfaction with one's lot, qualifying one's words, not taking credit for oneself, likableness, love of G-d, love of humanity, love of charity, love of justice, love of rebuke, fleeing from honor, lack of arrogance in learning, reluctance to hand down rulings, participating in the burden of one's fellow, judging him to the side of merit, correcting him, bringing him to a peaceful resolution [of his disputes], deliberation in study, asking and answering, listening and illuminating, learning in order to teach, learning in order to observe, wising one's teacher, exactness in conveying a teaching, and saying something in the name of its speaker. Thus we have learned: One who says something in the name of its speaker brings redemption to the world, as is stated (Esther 2:22), "And Esther told the king in the name of Mordechai."
Blessed is He, our God, who has separated us from those that go astray, and gave us the Torah of truth, and planted eternal life within us.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Aly Raisman to Visit Israel

This is good news:
When American sports superstars celebrate victory, they traditionally go to Disneyland.

But gold-medal winning gymnast Aly Raisman will celebrate in Jerusalem after she told Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein on Friday that she would accept his invitation to her and her family to make their first visit to Israel.

In a phone conversation facilitated by US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, Raisman told Edelstein that she was really happy to be invited and she would decide with her family when would be the best time to come.
I think that it is wonderful that the entire Raisman family will come to visit. I hope that they have a good time!

Friday, August 10, 2012

What Does God Want From Us?

Good question, if I don't say so myself! The answer is in this weeks Torah portion, Eikev:
And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul; to keep for thy good the commandments of the LORD, and His statutes, which I command thee this day?
The Ramchal explains this verse in the introduction to his classic book, Path of the Just:
This is what Moses our Teacher, may Peace be upon him, teaches us in saying (Deuteronomy 10:12), "And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you, but that you fear the Lord your God to walk in all His ways, and to love Him and serve the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul, to observe the mitzvoth of God and His statutes. .. " Herein have been included all of the features of perfection of Divine service that are appropriate in relation to the Holy One Blessed be He. They are: fear of God, walking in His ways, love, wholeheartedness, and observance of all of the mitzvoth.

"Fear of God" denotes fear of the Majesty of the Blessed One, fearing Him as one would a great and mighty king, and being ashamed at one's every movement in consequence of His greatness, especially when speaking before Him in prayer or engaging in the study of His Torah.

"Walking in His ways" embodies the whole area of cultivation and correction of character traits. As our Sages of blessed memory have explained, "As He is merciful, be also merciful..." The essence of all this is that a person conform all of his traits and all the varieties of his actions to what is just and ethical. Our Sages of blessed memory have thus summarized the idea (Avoth 2.1): "All that is praiseworthy in its doer and brings praise to him from others;" that is, all that leads to the end of true good, namely, strengthening of Torah and furthering of brotherliness.

"Love" - that there be implanted in a person's heart a love for the Blessed One which will arouse his soul to do what is pleasing before Him, just as his heart is aroused to give pleasure to his father and mother. He will be grieved if he or others are lacking in this; he will be jealous for it and he will rejoice greatly in fulfilling aught of it. "Whole-heartedness" - that service before the Blessed One be characterized by purity of motive, that its end be His service alone and nothing else. Included in this is that one's heart be complete in Divine service, that his interests not be divided or his observance mechanical, but that his whole heart be devoted to it.

"Observance of all the mitzvoth," as the words imply, is observance of the whole body of mitzvoth with all of their fine points and conditions.
That's all we need to do. Let's go!

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Aly Raisman: Jewish Heroine?

This just in:
Jewish-American gymnast Aly Raisman won a gold medal in the floor exercise as well as a bronze on the balance beam at the London Olympics.

Raisman, 18, of Needham, Mass., took the gold Tuesday with a score of 15.6 to edge Catalina Ponor of Romania and Aliya Mustafina of Russia, the silver and bronze medalists...

Raisman won the floor exercise in the team competition while performing her routine to a string-heavy version of "Hava Nagila."
There is absolutely no doubt about it. The lady is a heroine. Talent, long days of practice, and grace under pressure all culminated in a fantastic showing at the 2012 Olympics: Two gold medals and a bronze one too.

The question is, "Is Aly a Jewish heroine? Will she abandon her faith and people like so many other Jewish Americans that made it to the top and then married out? Or will she show the entire world that there is a lot more to being Jewish than Hava Nagila?

I never heard of Aly before the Olympics, but now I am "rooting" for her: that she will remember her roots, marry a nice Jewish boy and raise a nice Jewish family.

Then we will know that she really is a winner.

כן יאבדו כל אויביך ה'

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Secular Coercion Will Fail (part 5)

This is just hilarious:
A day before the Tal Law is set to expire, activists demanding a universal IDF draft arrived in Bnei Brak on Tuesday to give out flowers and leaflets urging the ultra-Orthodox sector to shoulder the burden of army service.

Response to the activists' efforts was unenthusiastic; some residents of the predominantly haredi central Israeli city tore the faux draft summons and threw the flowers away.

"Why did you come here?" one haredi youth asked the protesters. "To provoke us?"

When the protest turned tumultuous, the activists, who belong to the Suckers Camp movement, had to double back.

"Where did you serve?" a young ultra-Orthodox man, Moshe, asked Idan Miller, a leader of the protest movement. When the latter answered that he served at Army Radio, Moshe sneered at him.

"You're a sucker, believe me," Moshe said. "Even Yair Lapid contributed more than you. What did you contribute at your air-conditioned (office)? If you would have worked for a media channel, at least you would have made some money."
Did you get it? One of the leaders of the protest movement did his army service at Galei Tzahal, (also known by its acronym, Galatz), which is the radio station of the IDF. You may ask yourself, "How does Galei Tzahal contribute to Israel's security?" The answer is, it doesn't. Israeli Army Radio is an anachronistic organization that should have been closed down long ago:
Galatz started its transmissions on September 24, 1950 as a continuance of the Hagana transmission to the Jewish public during the Israeli War of Independence.
I am not surprised. Often the ones who scream about the loudest about Haredim not serving in the army are the ones whose own army service was insignificant or non-existent. Those who serve in the fighting units do it out of love for their people and country (and for some of them, their love of God).
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