Tuesday, September 29, 2009

G-d’s Name

The four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkos are knows as G-tt’s Nomen¹ (G-d’s Name).

A short shiur about that from Rabbi Paltiel.

¹ Yes, in Yiddish. Yes, they’ve always been known like that.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Do tshuva

If your boss fed you, clothed you, was nice to you at work and gave you nice projects to do, fitting your exact personality, character, professional interests, you’d be ashamed to take advantage of him and, say, come late to work all the time or use the company credit card to buy yourself a dinner, wouldn’t you?

So, get you bloody act together already. This is who you are. Make it also something that you do.

Mmm... mmm... mmm...

From the clips’s info on Youtube:
Song 1:
Mm, mmm, mm!
Barack Hussein Obama

He said that all must lend a hand
To make this country strong again
Mmm, mmm, mm!
Barack Hussein Obama

He said we must be fair today
Equal work means equal pay
Mmm, mmm, mm!
Barack Hussein Obama

He said that we must take a stand
To make sure everyone gets a chance
Mmm, mmm, mm!
Barack Hussein Obama

He said red, yellow, black or white
All are equal in his sight
Mmm, mmm, mm!
Barack Hussein Obama

Mmm, mmm, mm
Barack Hussein Obama

Song 2:
Hello, Mr. President we honor you today!
For all your great accomplishments, we all doth say "hooray!"

Hooray, Mr. President! You're number one!
The first black American to lead this great nation!

Hooray, Mr. President we honor your great plans
To make this country's economy number one again!

Hooray Mr. President, we're really proud of you!
And we stand for all Americans under the great Red, White, and Blue!

So continue ---- Mr. President we know you'll do the trick
So here's a hearty hip-hooray ----

Hip, hip hooray!
Hip, hip hooray!
Hip, hip hooray!

Monday, September 21, 2009

This is Russia

(center: the richest Jew of Russia, Roman Abramovich)

Back in the day, I commented on a post by TRS on the Basement Blogging. Somebody asked where the phrase “I am the law” comes from, and I answered:
Re: “I am the law” — It’s the motto of absolutist monarchy.

L’État c’est Moi (“I am the State”), attributed to Louis XIV. It means that he is France. Not he is the servant of French society (American model). Not French people serve him, and he rules over French society (more tempered monarchist model). He IS France, and France is he. They are one and the same. And, as a result, he is the law, the first and the last.

An extremely powerful idea. I don’t know if this is how Judaism views the Jewish king (seems not), but this is a great moshul for, lehavdil, relationship between Hashem and the Universe (and Torah). It’s not that Hashem is separate from the Universe and rules over it (and provides us instructions in Torah). The Universe is an aspect of Hashem, and Torah is Hashem. V’dal.

In reality, Louis XIV probably said: Je m'en vais, mais l'État demeurera toujours (“I depart, but the State shall always remain”). Which is not to say he didn’t believe the above — but he probably believed it in the sense that he was bottul to the State, and as a result, he became the State, and the State became him — his whole definition of himself was that of France, French society, French state and its ruler (and vice versa, at least ideally, the direction in which the France was going was the exact direction in which the King saw fit.)

In this sense, the definition of the monarch still exists even today. Queen Elizabeth II sees herself as the Commonwealth of the United Kingdom and Blah-blah-blah. That is her essence, the identity and everyday reality. She puts on shoes, because it fits her role as the sovereign of the Commonwealth. She goes to vacation in Belmoral, because she physically needs vacation in order to function as a human sovereign of the Commonwealth.

Now, since she is a bit more modest than the Louis, and British are smarter than French (not just British of today relative to French of Louis’s time, but in general), the Queen delegates her powers and aspects of her “statehood” to her ministers, to the arch-bishop, she (officially) takes the laws passed by the Parliament under advisement (although nowadays, she just signs them). All of this has become part of tradition to preserve the state of monarchy and at the same time allow UK function as a modern state, but at least in principle, the queen very much is the State.

Whether politically or socially the two systems of monarchy make sense (I personally think they both are ridiculous, and despite the cuteness of the British system, it still costs tremendous amount of people’s money), the last second is a great moshol for a chossid.
In short, because everything Louis XIV said was the law, he could say about himself that he was France.

Well, friends, this is Russia:

In particular:

In particular:

The pictures are from the photo-reportáge by Norvezhsky-Lesnoi of the graduation ceremony at Moscow School of Oligar… I mean, Management.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Happy ’770, y’all!!!

‘Nuff said.

May we all get what (and whom) we are waiting for this year. In more than one way.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Difference in spelling

Chabad way: “Moshiach” as in “now”.
Everybody else’s way: “Mashiach” as in “afterthought”.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A plot twist

One of the more interesting plot twists in vampire (werewolf, ghost, wizard, genius mathematician, superman) novels is a story of a vampire (werewo… ok, you get the gist) trying to be normal while living amongst humans and struggling at the same time with being special and belonging to an outcast/elite group.

Yet we, as frum Jews, deal with this every day. In almost all aspects of our lives.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Faith vs. truth

Or, emunah vs. emes. The two terms oftentimes translated as “faith” — as in “blind faith” — and truth — as in “absolute truth”. Well, guess what? Jewish faith is not blind. And no truth is absolute.

I went to a talk by Rabbi Akiva Tatz tonight. He told a story of a Japanese soldier who was left on a Philippine island during the war, and somehow remained there for 30 years after its end, waging war on the Philippians. When an officer from Japan finally arrived and told the soldier that he can go home, the soldier replied that he had his orders and was planning to carry them out until his death. The officer told the soldier that the war had been over for 30 years at that point and that what he was doing was illogical. He got in reply: “The role of a soldier is to carry out orders, not to think about their logic.”

The story ends with the officer bringing the soldier’s superior officer from the times of the war, who could give him orders to go home.

The story portrays what emunah is about (at least in this framework of thinking). It’s not about blind faith. It’s about the commitment. You’re walking through an empty plain in the night, rain and wind in your face. Only very rarely do you see the lightning that illuminates the plain for a split second. The rest of the time you find yourself walking in the darkness, committed to the image from the lightning flash.

And yet, says Rabbi Tatz, there is something tragic, something silly, something bothersome about that image of that Japanese soldier faithfully waging the war 30 years after its end. What was he lacking?

He had emunah — faithfulness, commitment, loyalty. He was lacking emes — truth, clarity and reason. Judaism is founded and based on emes. Knowing where our tradition comes from with utmost clarity. Being able to think critically about the foundations, about Hashem, evidence of His existence, evidence of the truth of our tradition. Not saying, like the rest of religions, that religion has nothing to do with reason, logic or knowledge. Our religion is founded on rational principles.

And at the same time that is married to the ability to carry out orders with absolute commitment, even when finding oneself in the darkness at the moment. Because once you know (know!) that Hashem exists, once you know that He gave you Torah at the Sinai, He owes you no further explanation — and any explanation that you do receive (as a favor and as a tool to make your service better¹) is only superficial. At the end of the day, it’s all about His Will that needs to be expressed in this world, no matter what.

So, day in and day out, you do it, keeping the image of the plane illuminated by a bolt of lighting in your mind, the image of the goal towards which you’re walking.

¹ Which, on the one hand, should prevent you from being filled with arrogance about the fact that you know the explanations, and, on the other hand, should prevent others from saying that one should stop worrying about the “esoteric” knowledge, the “secrets”, the “explanations”. The secrets and explanations are here for a purpose. They must be utilized — but specifically for this purpose; namely, for illumination and improvement of one’s service of Hashem.

* * *

I wish mazal tov to Elisheva and TRS who are getting married, with the help of Hashem, today. May they build together a home founded upon Torah and mitzvos, a vessel for Hashem’s Essence in this world. May theirs and all our efforts bring Mashiach speedily, already in the coming year of 5770, bring close the time when we will not have to rely on the memory of the revelation of Hashem, but will see His Essence clearly revealed in every piece of matter of this world.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Journalists’ guide to firearms


[via arbat, via guns]

Two comments from the latter blog:
Every time I hear "the victim was shot with an ak-47 assault rifle" I cringe.

I'm in journalism, and I wish this wasn't so true.

What would Obama do if 9/11 happened on his watch?

(click on the image to enlarge)

You all know the answer to that question: bend over.

[via Gizmodo]
In the anniversary of the attack, let's take a few minutes to reflect on the stupidity of all violence, and think about those who fell that day, and everyone affected by these attacks and any other coward terrorist act in the world.

I propose something different. Take a few minutes to reflect on what a mess a liberal president left after himself for a conservative president to clean up (and compare it with what we have now). Also reflect that not all violence is stupid. If somebody is trying to mug you on the street, breaking his nose is not stupid. (If mugging doesn’t work for you, think worse. I am sure you can use your imagination. Residents of Crown Heights certainly can.) What is stupid is knowing somebody is planning to rob your house and kill your family and not doing anything about it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Why we don’t need socialized healthcare

[via Letters of Thought]

Vot to do den?

Well, for starters, stop being socialists. Then, maybe start working towards free market.

More on medicine: “Advantages of private healthcare over public one”, “How good socialism is for healthcare”.

The Russians are coming

Speaking of a union of the East and the West. Soviet soldiers. American music.

Real vs. girly farbrengens

Courtesy of e and SRH, a post about what is a real Chabad farbrengen (at least its chitzoinius) and what is not.

SRH comments: the second type is a typical girls’ (or women’s) farbrengen.

I comment: that’s the problem with feminism. It’s “we will be equal to men by doing manly things”. Farbrengens are not for women. Women have to reinvent something for themselves, something uniquely feminine that allows them to connect to each other and to Chassidus.

Brilliant Jewish pianist....

... not to mention a chossid in the making, playing Rachmaninoff.

He suggests you not look at it, but rather just listen to it. I personally think that it’s because he knows he looks ridiculous without a beard.

I like this version more:

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Why Documentary Hypothesis is nonsense

And by nonsense I mean shit.

Look at this web-site tracking different editions of one text (even if you are an ignorant Hareidi and believe it's appikorsus, it's still fun to watch). Each color is a different writer.

Oh wait, no. It's the same guy. Hmm...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Iron curtain, you say?

If this is not a union of East and West, large and small, sea and land, fat and skinny, Russian dumplings and fish-and-chips, I don’t know what is.

Friday, September 4, 2009

It’s been emotional

What does it mean: to walk in the paths of Hashem?

Rambam: to be like Him — rachum, chanun, etc.

R’ Avraham, son of Rambam: meaning what? Meaning, not just doing things that are merciful, kind, etc., but actually feeling those things.

The Rebbe: it means to experience emotions and be emotional and act emotionally like Hashem. Human emotions are reactive. Hashem’s emotions are rational: they are measured responses to a situation as it deserves them.

Don’t do kindness blindly — it will hurt. Don’t become angry without bounds. Do both things rationally, constructively and to the point.

More to come later, iy"H.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Peace in our times


From arbat:
Regarding Second World War

Two things that I repeat often, but would like to repeat again, due to the anniversary:

1. Second World War was started not by Hitler. But by Hitler and Stalin. They agreed to divide Poland and divided it. People who only subscribe the war to Hitler either don’t know the history well or do it due to ideological reasons.

2. This war could have been prevented. Hitler for sure could have been prevented. And this would probably cool off Stalin quite a bit.

Hitler started off from very little. In 1936, when he violated the agreement of Locarno and moved troops into Rhineland, his generals thought him mad. If the French looked at it as military action — as they should have — [and did an... attention, drumbeat... preventive strike] the war would have been quicker than the first Gulf War. Actually, it would not be difficult to stop him later in Czechoslovakia — Czech army had quite good abilities, and united with the British Army and the French — they would make sure Hitler had no chances.

What happened? Neville Chamberlain the British Prime Minister happened. The main liberal. “Peace in our times.” We will give Hitler Czechoslovakia — and that’s it. He can’t possibly want more. By giving in a little, by reaching a compromise, by not responding with aggression to aggression, we will have peace.

Results? 6 million Jews dead, r"l. 20 million dead in the Soviet Union. 16 million dead in Germany. Countless civilian deaths all over Europe (except France, which was taken over in 2 weeks). All of Europe destroyed. Vacuum of power in Africa (resulting in all modern wonderful events from child prostitution and slavery to AIDS epidemic to Darfur). Eastern Europe under Communism for 70 years. Western Europe under Socialism until now. Germans turning from warlike philosophers to gay leather lovers.

All a result of “Peace in our times” and “No aggression when faced with aggression” philosophies.