September 28, 2007

How many seeds does a pomegranate have?

Pomegranates are curious fruits - apple-sized, red in color, and containing hundreds of pitch-red juicy seeds. Bitter-sweet in taste, depending on ripeness, puts these delightful transparent fragilities in-between grapefruits and red grapes.

Sources are in disagreement about how many seeds a pomegranate holds. Some sources fix the number to exactly 613, some allow for an error of +/- 200, yet others believe that all pomegranates have the exact same number of seeds. It is certainly possible to disprove the first and third of these.

Click the link to see study

September 25, 2007

No Jew is at liberty to surrender the right of the Jewish Nation

The words of David Ben Gurion:

No Jew is at liberty to surrender the right of the Jewish Nation and the Land of Israel to exist. No Jewish body is sanctioned to do so. No Jew alive today has the authority to yield any piece of land whatsoever. This right is preserved by the Jewish people throughout the generations and cannot be forfeited under any circumstance. Even if at some given time there will be those who declare that they are relinquishing this right, they have neither the power nor the jurisdiction to negate it for future generations to come. The Jewish Nation is neither obligated by nor responsible for any waiver such as this. Our right to this land, in its entirety, is steadfast inalienable and eternal. And until the coming of the Great Redemption, we shall never yield this historic right.

Ben Gurion's Speech to the 21st Zionist congress, Basel, 1937.

Could Ben Gurion possibly have foreseen that 70 years after the 21st Zionist Congress there would be an Israeli prime minister willing TO SURRENDER THE RIGHT OF THE JEWISH NATION AND THE LAND OF ISRAEL TO EXIST.


September 15, 2007

Unveiled Stupidity & Rabbi Eric Yoffie

Unveiled Stupidity
By Dennis Prager | Tuesday, September 11, 2007

No reader would be faulted for thinking that the title of this column is a spoof. After all, Reform Judaism, like liberal Christian denominations, is exquisitely sensitive to women's equality. Thus, Reform Judaism was the first major Jewish denomination to ordain women, and the first to have its seminaries discourage referring to God as "He."

One would think, then, that the last thing the head of a movement devoted to women's equality would endorse is the covering of women's faces with a veil. This is one of the most dehumanizing and degrading practices that has ever been foisted on women.

That is why it is noteworthy that Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the head of Reform Judaism, in a speech before hundreds of American Muslims at the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), said: "Why should anyone criticize the voluntary act of a woman who chooses to wear a headscarf or a veil? Surely the choice these women make deserves our respect, not to mention the full protection of the law."

In the long history of women's inequality, it is difficult to name almost anything more anti-woman, dehumanizing and degrading than the veil. We know people by their face. Without seeing a person's face, we feel that we do not know the person. When we read about someone in the news, whether known for good or ill, we immediately study the person's face. One can have one's entire body covered, and it means nothing in terms of whether we feel we know the person. But cover a person's face, and the person might as well be invisible.

Indeed, the veiled woman is intended to be invisible. That is precisely the goal of the veil.

In light of the veil's dehumanization of women, how could anyone, especially a rabbi on the left, say he respects a woman choosing to wear a veil?

The rabbi could offer only two possible responses.

One possibility is that he does not think the veil degrades women. But it is almost impossible to imagine any non-Muslim holding such a position. On the other hand, he did lump the veil along with headscarf, as if covering one's hair and covering one's face were in some way analogous. Still, it is hard to believe that the rabbi equates hiding one's face and hiding one's hair.

So the rabbi is left with one other explanation: that he used the word "voluntary." But that explanation indicts him as much as does the first explanation. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of fundamentalist Muslim culture -- whether in the Muslim world or in the West -- knows that, given the social, religious and familial pressures on women to wear a veil, the veil is not worn voluntarily in any meaningful sense of the word.

But while the rabbi respects Muslim women who choose to wear the veil, he had words of contempt for American women who choose to dress like Lindsay Lohan. Like others on the left, Rabbi Yoffie only has standards for Westerners, especially Americans, not for other cultures. It is the left's soft bigotry of low expectations that has often been noted.

In the rabbi's desire to ingratiate himself with his audience, he engaged in the generations-old left-wing practice of moral equivalence. Just as during the Cold War the left regularly equated America and the Soviet Union as "the two superpowers" -- which is why there was universal leftist condemnation of President Ronald Reagan's calling the Soviet Union an "evil empire" -- much of the left today morally equates American fundamentalist Christians with fundamentalist Muslims.

So before a large Muslim audience, Rabbi Yoffie singled out two evangelical Christians, Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson, and a Jew -- me -- as anti-Muslim. He essentially identified us as the Christian and Jewish moral equivalents of Muslims who hate Jews and Christians. That moral equivalence was as immoral as Rabbi Yoffie's defense of the veil.

Now, as it happens, I have never uttered or written a bigoted word against Muslims, and so the rabbi did not actually quote me saying something anti-Muslim. Instead the rabbi distorted what I once wrote. He said, "How did it happen that when a Muslim congressman takes his oath of office while holding the Koran, Dennis Prager suggests that the congressman is more dangerous to America than the terrorists of 9/11?"

Here is what I actually wrote: "When all elected officials take their oaths of office with their hands on the very same book, they all affirm that some unifying value system underlies American civilization. If Keith Ellison is allowed to change that, he will be doing more damage to the unity of America and to the value system that has formed this country than the terrorists of 9/11."

I did not say that Keith Ellison is more dangerous to America than the 9/11 terrorists. I said that Ellison's replacing the Bible with another religious book for the first time in American history is more dangerous to American unity and to American values than the terrorists were. In fact, I feel that way about far more non-Muslim Americans, such as Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and Michael Moore. And I repeatedly noted in the same article that the issue had nothing to do with the Koran or Islam, that I would have said this about a congressman replacing the Bible with the Book of Mormon, or with "Dianetics" or any other text. The rabbi slandered me before a national and world Muslim audience.

The "NEW" Germany - (Same Old Same Old)

The "New" Germany
By William E. Grim | Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I'm not Jewish. No one in my family died in the Holocaust. For me, anti-Semitism has always been one of those phenomena that doesn't really register on my radar, like tribal genocide in Rwanda, a horrible thing that happens to someone else.

But I live in a small town outside of Munich on a street that until May of 1945 was named Adolf Hitler Strasse. I work in Munich, a pleasant metropolitan city of a little over a million inhabitants whose Bavarian charm tends to obscure the fact that this city was the birthplace and capital of the Nazi movement.

Every day when I go to work, I pass by the sites of apartments Hitler lived in, extant buildings in which decisions were made to murder millions of innocent people, and plazas in which book burnings took place, SS troops paraded and people were executed. The proximity to evil has a way of concentrating one's attention, of putting a physical reality to the textbook narratives of the horrors perpetrated by the Germans.

Then the little things start to happen that over a period of time add up to something very sinister. I'm on a bus and a high school boy passes around Grandpa's red leather-bound copy of Mein Kampf to his friends who respond by saying "coooool!" He then takes out a VCR tape (produced in Switzerland) of The Great Speeches of Joseph Goebbels."

A few weeks later, I'm at a business meeting with four young highly educated Germans who are polite, charming and soft-spoken to say the least. When the subject matter changes to a business deal with a man in New York named Rubinstein, their nostrils flair, their demeanor attain a threatening mien and one of them actually says, and I'm quoting verbatim here: "The problem with America is that the Jews have all the money." They start laughing and another one says, "Yeah, all the Jews care about is money."

I found that this type of anti-Semitic reference in my professional dealings with Germans soon became a leitmotif (to borrow a term made famous by Richard Wagner, another notorious German anti-Semite). In my private meetings with Germans, it often happens that they will loosen up after a while and reveal personal opinions and political leanings that were thought to have ceased to exist in a Berlin bunker on April 30, 1945 . Maybe it's because I have blond hair and my last name is of German origin that the Germans feel that I am, or could potentially be, "one of them." It shows how much they understand what it means to be an American.

Whatever the reason, the conversations generally have one or more of these components:

(1) It was unfortunate that America and Germany fought each other in World War II because the real enemy was Russia.

(2) Yes, the Nazis were excessive, but terrible things happen during wars, and anyway, the scope of the Holocaust has been greatly exaggerated by the American media, which is dominated by Jews.

(3) CNN is controlled by American Jews and is anti-Palestinian. (Yes, I know it sounds incredible, but even among the most highly intelligent Germans, even those with a near-native fluency in English, there is the widespread belief that the news network founded by Fidel Castro's friend Ted Turner, who was married to Hanoi Jane Fonda, is a hotbed of pro-Israeli propaganda.)

(4) Almost all Germans were opposed to the Third Reich and nobody in Germany knew anything about the murder of the Jews, but the Jews themselves were really responsible for the Holocaust.

(5) Ariel Sharon was worse than Hitler and the Israelis are Nazis. America supports Israel only because Jews control the American government and media.

For the first time in my life, then, I became conscious of anti-Semitism. Sure, anti-Semitism exists elsewhere in the world, but nowhere have the consequences been as devastating as in Germany . Looking at it as objectively as possible, 2002 was a banner year for anti-Semitism in Germany. Synagogues were firebombed, Jewish cemeteries desecrated, the No. 1 best-selling novel, Martin Walser's Death of a Critic, was a thinly-veiled roman a clef containing a vicious anti-Semitic attack on Germany's best-known literary critic, Marcel Reich-Ranicki (who was a survivor of both the Warsaw ghetto and Auschwitz); the Free Democrat Party unofficially adopted anti-Semitism as a campaign tactic to attract Germany's sizeable Muslim minority; and German revisionist historians began to define German perpetration of World War II and the Holocaust not as crimes against humanity, but as early battles (with regrettable but understandable excesses) in the Cold War against communism.

Click the Link to read the rest!

September 14, 2007

Am I more Reform or Conservative?

Brought up in Reform Judaism (TSOC), Teshuvah has made me realize that a more Torah based existence is for me.

But do I want to look at Conservative Judaism, or do I even need to.

Can I be an "Observant Reform Jew" (Thank you Iris) Sure I can.

But will enough congregants in my community share my views?
I wore a Kippah to TSOC this Rosh Hashana for the first time.
It was OK. Some do...many don't.

Conservative Outline and my feelings :

The Centrality of Modern Israel (Yes)
Hebrew: The Irreplaceable Language of Jewish Expression (Yes)
Devotion to the Ideal of Klal Yisrael (Whole Jewish community - YES)
The Defining Role of Torah in the Reshaping of Judaism (YES)
The Study of Torah (YES)
The Governance of Jewish Life by Halakha (Maybe)
Belief in Hashem ( Well Duh)

I guess the question for me has always been Halakha Laws and how they
govern your everyday life.

But as a Reform Jew I be as observant as I need to be.
I don't need to change to Conservative...

Unless I feel that the I wanty to attend services that the Reform Movement may not "recognize".


Why Reform and Not Conservative? A Difference...

Ismar Schorsch, Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, identifies and explores seven core values of Conservative Judaism in his monograph, "The Sacred Cluster: The Core Values of Conservative Judaism." According to Schorsch, the core values of Conservative Judaism are:

1 The Centrality of Modern Israel
2 Hebrew: The Irreplaceable Language of Jewish Expression
3 Devotion to the Ideal of Klal Yisrael
4 The Defining Role of Torah in the Reshaping of Judaism
5 The Study of Torah
6 The Governance of Jewish Life by Halakha
7 Belief in God

L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem"

"L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem" (when speaking to men) or "L'shanah tovah tikatevi v'taihatemi" (when speaking to women). Both these longer versions of the traditional Rosh Hashanah greeting mean "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year".

Reform Movement's Centenary Perspective of 1976

1) God -- The affirmation of God has always been essential to our people's will to survive. In our struggle through the centuries to preserve our faith we have experienced and conceived of God in many ways. The trials of our own time and the challenges of modern culture have made steady belief and clear understanding difficult for some. Nevertheless, we ground our lives, personally and communally, on God's reality and remain open to new experiences and conceptions of the Divine. Amid the mystery we call life, we affirm that human beings, created in God's image, share in God's eternality despite the mystery we call death.

2) The People Israel -- The Jewish people and Judaism defy precise definition because both are in the process of becoming. Jews, by birth or conversion, constitute an uncommon union of faith and peoplehood. Born as Hebrews in the ancient Near East, we are bound together like all ethnic groups by language, land, history, culture, and institutions. But the people of Israel is unique because of its involvement with God and its resulting perception of the human condition. Throughout our long history our people has been inseparable from its religion with its messianic hope that humanity will be redeemed.

3) Torah -- Torah results from the relationship between God and the Jewish people. The records of our earliest confrontations are uniquely important to us. Lawgivers and prophets, historians and poets gave us a heritage whose study is a religious imperative and whose practice is our chief means to holiness. Rabbis and teachers, philosophers and mystics, gifted Jews in every age amplified the Torah tradition. For millennia, the creation of Torah has not ceased and Jewish creativity in our time is adding to the chain of tradition.

4) Our Religious Obligations: Religious Practice -- Judaism emphasizes action rather than creed as the primary expression of a religious life, the means by which we strive to achieve universal justice and peace. Reform Judaism shares this emphasis on duty and obligation. Our founders stressed that the Jew's ethical responsibilities, personal and social, are enjoined by God. The past century has taught us that the claims made upon us may begin with our ethical obligations but they extend to many other aspects of Jewish living, including: creating a Jewish home centered on family devotion: lifelong study; private prayer and public worship; daily religious observance; keeping the Sabbath and the holy days: celebrating the major events of life; involvement with the synagogues and community; and other activities which promote the survival of the Jewish people and enhance its existence. Within each area of Jewish observance Reform Jews are called upon to confront the claims of Jewish tradition, however differently perceived, and to exercise their individual autonomy, choosing and creating on the basis of commitment and knowledge.

5) Our Obligations: The State of Israel and the Diaspora -- We are privileged to live in an extraordinary time, one in which a third Jewish commonwealth has been established in our people's ancient homeland. We are bound to that land and to the newly reborn State of Israel by innumerable religious and ethnic ties. We have been enriched by its culture and ennobled by its indomitable spirit. We see it providing unique opportunities for Jewish self-expression. We have both a stake and a responsibility in building the State of Israel, assuring its security, and defining its Jewish character. We encourage aliyah for those who wish to find maximum personal fulfillment in the cause of Zion. We demand that Reform Judaism be unconditionally legitimized in the State of Israel.
At the same time that we consider the State of Israel vital to the welfare of Judaism everywhere, we reaffirm the mandate of our tradition to create strong Jewish communities wherever we live. A genuine Jewish life is possible in any land, each community developing its own particular character and determining its Jewish responsibilities. The foundation of Jewish community life is the synagogue. It leads us beyond itself to cooperate with other Jews, to share their concerns, and to assume leadership in communal affairs. We are therefore committed to the full democratization of the jewish community and to its hallowing in terms of Jewish values.

The State of Israel and the Diaspora, in fruitful dialogue, can show how a people transcends nationalism even as it affirms it, thereby setting an exampic for humanity which remains largely concerned with dangerously parochial goals.

6) Our Obligations: Survival and Service -- Early Reform Jews, newly admitted to general society and seeing in this the evidence of a growing universalism, regularly spoke of Jewish purpose in terms of Jewry's service to humanity. In recent years we have become freshly conscious of the virtues of pluralism and the values of particularism. The Jewish people in its unique way of life validates its own worth while working toward the fulfillment of its messianic expectations.
Until the recent past our obligations to the Jewish people and to all humanity seemed congruent. At times now these two imperatives appear to conflict. We know of no simple way to resolve such tensions. We must, however, confront them without abandoning either of our commitments. A universal concern for humanity unaccompanied by a devotion to our particular people is self-destructive; a passion for our people without involvement in humankind contradicts what the prophets have meant to us. Judaism calls us simultaneously to universal and particular obligations.

We remain God's witness that history is not meaningless. We affirm that with God's help people are not powerless to affect their destiny. We dedicate ourselves, as did the generations of Jews who went before us, to work and wait for that day when "They shall not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."

Why has Reform Judaism changed?

Rabbi Jeffrey Wolfson Goldwasser explains

The authority to interpret Jewish texts is in no way limited to "rabbis and scholars. Reform Judaism asks every Jew to know enough about Jewish ideas and tradition to make their own Jewish choices.

The name of our movement is "Reform," and that implies a constant process of adaptation within our unchanging principles. Here are the major areas of change, as I see them, that Reform Judaism has experienced over the last thirty years:

1) RE-ADOPTION OF TRADITIONAL PRACTICES. Did you ever think you'd see Reform Jews embracing the practice of immersing in a mikveh, putting on tallit, or marking the end of Shabbat with havdalah blessings? Those rituals were proudly rejected by the Reform Movement of the 19th century. Yet, in a single generation, Reform Jews have re-examined and re-adopted these and other rituals. In doing so, however, contemporary Reform Jews have not "reverted" or "become more traditional." In each of these cases, Reform Jews have adopted ancient rituals to fulfill a contemporary spiritual need. In doing so, they often have given rituals new meanings and new applications. For example, the cleansing waters of the mikveh are now used by some Reform Jews to mark the end of cancer treatment, a divorce, or other life experiences from which they seek to be spiritually purified.

2) GREATER PARTICIPATION AND INTIMACY IN WORSHIP. Most contemporary Reform congregations have moved away from the aesthetic of elevation and grandeur and toward an aesthetic of intimacy, community and participation. Today in a Reform congregation you are likely to see a rabbi or cantor with a guitar inviting the congregation to sing along to folk music settings of the prayers.

3) EMPHASIS ON HEBREW. Hebrew was never absent from Reform Jewish practice. Every Reform prayerbook published, going back to the 19th century, has included Hebrew. However, there has been a notable increase in the use of Hebrew in recent decades. The increased use of Hebrew can be seen as a response to the increased importance of the state of Israel to American Jews. It is also a recognition of the fact that Hebrew is the language of Jewish prayer and thought.

The encouragement of aliyah, emigration to Israel, was not part of mainstream Reform Judaism in the pre-state era. However, Zionism and encouragement of aliyah is not a recent innovation either. In the Reform Movement's Centenary Perspective of 1976, the Reform Movement stated, "We encourage aliyah for those who wish to find maximum personal fulfillment in the cause of Zion."