Tuesday, September 26, 2006

How the Jews stiff the help...

The Rabbinical Assmebly does it again:

A rabbinic opinion calling on Jewish business owners to pay their workers a living wage and hire union employees was stymied by the Conservative movement’s top lawmaking body after the opinion received fewer than the minimum number of votes needed for a paper to be approve

Maybe this is part of the reason why rabbis are loath to be more supportive of workers' rights:

For Vera Haim, teaching Jewish children about their religion, history and culture gave her life a deeper meaning. For 17 years, the 53-year-old Israeli-born educator taught at Jewish nursery schools throughout Southern California, most recently at Temple Kol Tikvah in Woodland Hills. Nothing made Haim happier than helping young students develop self-esteem and a curiosity about their roots.

But her dream job held the seeds of a nightmare. Earning just $15,000 annually and with no health-care benefits, Haim landed in dire financial straits after she and her husband divorced last year. Unable to support herself, she had to move in with her 31-year-old son. In short order, she left Kol Tikvah and nearly doubled her income by opening a home day-care business in her son’s house.

She and other Jewish day-school teachers are not alone in their frustration. From social workers caring for Holocaust survivors to cooks preparing kosher meals for the elderly, many Jewish communal workers complain that low wages make it nearly impossible for them to buy homes, take vacations or live a comfortable middle-class existence. Some even must work two jobs to eke out a living.

(Note that this person was trying to live on $15K in greater Los Angeles!)

I will tell another anecdote about an acaquaintance who teaches at a large Conservative syanagogue in a major metropolitan area. They told him last summer that his hors were to change this fall. They neglected to tell him, until it was too late to get another job, that the change in hours would result in a substantial reduction in pay. On top of that, he told a bunch of us that he has having trouble collecting back pay from these jokers! This, at a shul where they just let out a major contract for substantial renovations to a big fancy building that seems to be in decent shape as far as I can tell. They had no problem getting donors to have rooms named after them, but they can't even pay their own employees. about the only advice my friend got was "call the rabbi," and I'm not sure whether he did or not, but our people are in a hell of a state if a person has to call the rabbi to intercede with shul management in order to get what's due him by right.

Oh, yes, and I have another person I know who works for a Federation-run "newspaper" ("house organ" is more like it, considering it's lack of independent reporting on the Jewish community) where he get's constantly hassled about getting time off to observe the Jewish holidays.

No wonder less than 50% of American Jews bother affiliating with the organized Jewish community. Our community is primarily a corrupt vehicle for gratifying the egos and assuaging the consciences of rich businessmen. The sooner it falls the apart, the better off will be the House of Israel.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Maybe there's something to hashgacha pratis

Yessir good ol' Divine Providence. The Big Guy Upstairs who I'm not even sure exists seems to have sent me a big message this Sunday. The question is do I believe it or not.

There I am in my big Conservative shul on the High Holy Days, my least favorite time of the year, mainly because of the crowds of people who seem to need to have every prayer carefully explained to them by the rabbi (even though the Mahzor has a perfectly good translation and explanatory notes.)

So after the haftara, I'm kind of zoning out when the rabbi gets up for his sermon. Ah good, I need a nap. But no, it was that time of year for the dreaded "Israel sermon." Well now, if all our distinguished Rabbi Dr. X wanted to do was exhort us to have some solidarity with our beleagured fellow Jews in the Land of Israel, I'd go along with that, even if it's their own fault that they're beleagured. I had a family memeber who got hit with a felony charge (you don't want to know) and I've stuck with him/her, despite the fact that I was ready to throttle him/her (figuratively, of course) for being so stupid. Blood is thicker than water, after all.

But no, our dear hired man/woman of the cloth decided to to be a political pundit, giving a rundown of the sorry events of last summer, pretty much repeating every Likud/Kadima talking point verbatim. If only he had spouted Meretz talking points. (Forget about Labor. Amir Peretz sold his soul to the Kidima devil, and now he's political history. What a tragedy.) Actually, political punditry of any sort is totally out of place in a High Holy Day Sermon. I mean, aren;t we supposed to get some sort ofdeep spiritual uplift. If I want politics, the mighty Lord Kos or Reb DovBear (or heck, my own Dad) serves perefectly well.

The droning on about how the Israeli army is the most moral army in the world, even though this rabbi never served in it, even as a rabbi, let alone a real grunt, so how does he know. (I've gotten other stories about how "moral" the IDF is from ex-Zahal guys, not to mention reading Ha'aretz.) Well before long this sorry product of Ismar Schorsch's defective JTS curriculum was punching all my emotional buttons, and I had to quick, get up, doff my tallis as if I was heading to the restroom, and walk out. Yes, I know that Rabbi Dr. Pinchas Giller has posted a comment in Dov Bear that walking out on the Rabbi's drash is like telling the rabbi to go to hell, but he's wrong. I walked out to keep myself from telling the rabbi to go to hell (and to avoid the subsequent lynching.)

So there I was in the Men's Room fuming and angry at the whole damn Zionist cabal that is endangering the safety of the entire Jewish people everywhere in the world, including the State of Israel. I relieve myself. Wash my hands. (You might say I'm a neurotic Jew, but you can never say that my Mama didn't teach me right). Take a deep breath and go back into shul. Except that while we were doing musaf, I was still so angry that I called on Hashem to not write this congregation and the entire Jewish people in the Book of Life this year. Write us up for destruction, God! Let the Arabs drive those arrogant Israelis into the sea, and then drag them out again and force them to live as dhimmis under the rule of the Caliph Mad Mahmoud! Force them all to pass through IDF security checkpoints with Arab ID cards. Either that or exile them all to Biro-Bizjhan and take their kids from them and have them raised as Russian Orthodox Christians! And then send a few pogroms to entertain the smug, complacent self-righteous middle-class suburbanoid American Jews! Man, Iwas going! If the traditional theology about Hashem and what He does on Rosh Hashanna is correct, I don't know what He made of me.

Well, I did calm down. The sound of the Shofar helpd. It's one of the few Jewish rituals that's nonverbal. Baruch hashem, sometimes we Jews are so full of words it drives me crazy. Second-rate intellectual dreck. But at last, the long loud note of t'kiya gedola drowned out everyting and relaxed me.

Until I got home, that is, and had to start cooking lunch. You see the Apikoris kitchen is roughly the same size as the average galley in a 25 foot cruising sailboat, which means it's very small and there's not enough counter space to do more than make an sandwich. But I was trying to make a gourmet lunch, and before long, I had an onion chopped up on the cuttingboard. But just then, my beloved offpsring, Apikoris Junior, come shuffling into the kitchen.

"Dad," he whined, "I'm hungreyyyy."

He goes over opens the fridge, and gets out a container of Saturday's leftover chulent, which he plops in a bowl, and heads for the microwave. Unfortunately, the cutting board with the chopped onion is right in front of the microwave door. It's the only flat counter space available. So Junior opens the door (in his defense, he was trying to be careful), and then knocks the cutting board of the counter and before long, the kitchen floor is covered with chopped onions!

That might have been OK, but I had already oiled the skillet and had added the chicken to brown. So then I had to sweep up the floor, as the mere sight of a broom and dustpan will make Junior run for the hills. Then I had to wash off the cutting board and chop up a new onion. It was about then that I smelled the smoke of burning oil over by the skillet. So I rushed over and my foot slid on a patch of oil that had spattered on the floor. Fortunately, the burns were only first degree, and soaking in cold water relieved the pain. And then, to add insult to injury, the dinner gave me heartburn! (Serves me right for drinking that leftover half-bottle of Bordeaux.)

So that night, as I was clutching my chest burping with discomfort and dealing with a reddened painful hand, I wodered whether Hashem was sending me a message. Then I thought, Nah, everyhting can be explained by a rational cause. But then again, the destruction of the first Tempe can be explained by a rational cause, too. The King of Judah Jehoichim was a vassal who double-crossed his much more powerful liege lord, Nebudchadnezzar. You don't need God to explain the Exile. I still don't know whether I need God to explain my disastrous Rosh Hashanna Lunch.

Al chet.. for the sin I committed....

A recyled post I made in another blog last year, but still appropriate:

For the sin we have committed by not having a personal political philosphy

We live in a democracy where power comes to people trough the results of contested elections. Thus, we are responsbile for the results of the elections. The competing candidates wil do whatever they can to win votes, but, in the end, if a person believes that the government should be doing X, they should not be voting for candidates that enact policies of not-X.

But we have sinned, not only becuase we don't pay attentionto what the politcians do once they get power, but becuase we have let ourselves be confused over what kind of "X" we want from those in power.

Read more, and have an easy fast next week.

Shana Tova

Friday, September 22, 2006

Rosh Hashanna D'rash 5767

Shana Tova to all my dear readers.

This d'rash will not be interpreting text, but rather reminiscing about the past. It's an attempt to express my regret for not acting more forcefully against the forces that are slowly turning my peoples, both of them, in a force for evil in the world.

Someyears ago duing the 1990s, I was in Baltimore one summer weekend (I even think it was in Elul), and I attended morning Shabbat services at Chizuk Amuno, one of the large Conservative synagogues in that community. For some reason, the Rabbi, Joel Zaiman (who was, and maybe still is, a big wheel in the Conservative movement) decided to give a sermon about whether or not it was permissible to torture captives. I have no idea whether there was any relation to the Parsha or not, or whether the good rabbi was inspired by a recent Israeli Supreme Court decision that limited such practices. In any even, after much pilpul, Rabbi Zaiman came dpwn on the side of Torture, using the "ticking bomb" rationale. That is, if you have a suspect who has information that could immediately save other lives....

The problem with that rationale is that, of course, it's based on a lot of assumptions that the toturer has no idea about whether or not they're true. Real-life experience seems to be that this scenario is so exceedingly rare that it's a terrible basis for any sort of policy on the matter. However, it's much more common that torture victims provide innacrate information, that they'll tell the torurer whatever the torurer wants to hear just to end the pain.

Now I could go on about how I'm totally disillisioned with Rabbi Zaiman, who was apparently more worried about whether Zahal operatives are legally protected than he is about moral Principles. I could go on about how I think that his position makes him, in my mind, totally unqualified to serve as any kind of moral guikde for me. But I won't.

The reason is becuase back in those days a decade or more ago, when the rabbi spoke those words, I kind of nodded on with agreement. Sounds reasonable Who wouldn't want to take any possible steps needed to prevent death and destruction. And I know that I'm not alone. There are all too many people in this country who have stopped thinking, just nod their heads at whatever authority figures tell them, and in do so allow all sorts of injustices to continue. Even today, hardly anyone is raising a ruckus that our own government tells us that it's necessary for u to behave like the adversaries who we so rightly condemn.

This Rosh Hashanna I plan to repent for my sins of being inattentive to facts, by allowing myself to uncritically accept whatever is spoon-fed to me by authority. I resolve to go forth and do whatever is in my power to challenge injustice and violence, even if it comes from my own people.

Never forget. Challenge Authority. Think for yourself.

God gave us the power to think. He must have had a reason. Not using that power is an affront to God Himself.

L'Shana Tova Tiakatevu.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The fruit of wingnuttery

As seen at DovBear

Well, for all you folks relying on our wingnut-controlled Congress to get to the bottom of this Iran "nukyuhler" business, the UN weapons inspectors, who were, afeter all, correct about Saddam Hussein) have some bad news:

IAEA complains of 'outrageous' inaccuracies in Iran report to House Intelligence Committee

The Associated Press

Published: September 14, 2006

VIENNA, Austria A recent U.S. House of Representatives committee report on Iran's nuclear capability is "outrageous and dishonest" in trying to make a case that Tehran's program is geared toward making weapons, a senior official of the International Atomic Energy Agency has said.
The letter, obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday outside a 35-nation IAEA board meeting, says the report is false in saying Iran is making weapons-grade uranium at an experimental enrichment site, when it has in fact produced material only in small quantities that is far below the level that can be used in nuclear arms.

Alas, the fruit of wingnuttery. You wouldn't see any moonbats so silly as to mislead their country into a second war on false pretenses --a war that will further destory our military power and put the final nail in the coffin of our international stature.

And, by the way, even the Israelis think that the wingnuts are meshuuggeners.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Do the Jews really need this hassle?

Today I finally post on the Monsey Chicken Scandal:

Butcher Is Accused of Passing Off Chicken as Kosher

MONSEY, N.Y., Sept. 6 — Since sundown on Saturday — when the Jewish Sabbath ended — men, women and children have been scrubbing kitchen counters and stoves, and dipping pots and utensils in scalding water.

“My husband and I had to leave everything we were doing,” said Esther Herzl, 61, a Hasidic grandmother who lives here, “and all we did was scrape and scrape and scrape — from the cutlery to the glassware to the countertops, oven and stove. I’m beat. We’re truly religious, so we don’t cheat in the cleaning.”

The cleansing ritual, which is prescribed by Jewish law, became necessary after a Hasidic butcher was accused of stocking the shelves of a kosher grocery store here with nonkosher chicken and selling it to thousands of Orthodox Jewish families.

Now, as anyone who has contact with normal Orthodox people knows, in similar situations, the rabbis do not require this level of work. After all, it was the fault of whoever supervised the store, not the pious Jews who bought the meat in good faith. So why should the pious Jews be the ones who are punished by this uncessary extra work? No womder most of the House of Israel has abandoned these commandments, and, at this point, don't even bother to avoid the forbidden foods.

A better approach tokashrut is provided by the much-maligned Conservative movement, though, of course, I can't cite this without making passing criticism of my rabbis. After all, what's the point of being alive if you can't trash your own leadership?

I bring down in citation the responsum written by Rabbi Barry Leff,

Eating Dairy Meals in Unsupervised Restaurants

Rabbi Leff's bottom line is that it is, indeed, permissible to eat even cooked dairy foods at unsupervised restaurants (and presumably private homes as well), under limited conditions. But what is really interesting is that if you read between the lines, it seems that most of the traditional kashrut rules regarding cleaning and seprating dishes, utensils, etc. are not really required by the Torah and are essentially an uneccessary burden on the Jewish people. Sure, Rabbi Leff, doesn't say that, and if challenged would probably disagree with what I just wrote.

But read for yourself:

The traditional structure of kashrut includes many gezeirot which are in place to prevent the possibility of tasting a forbidden substance. The most widely known is the requirement to use separate dishes for meat and dairy. It is thus an assumption of the system of kashrut that pots, dishes, and utensils absorb food and tastes and exude them back out, possibly resulting in tasting a forbidden combination. We can see that the rabbis concern was with the absorption of the taste of the food being cooked in the pot from the discussion at the end of Avodah Zarah about how a Gentile’s pots are forbidden from use because of the flavors they might have absorbed. The Gemara in fact concludes that if the pot had not been used in 24 hours, it is permitted to use it, even without washing. There is an implication that if the pot is washed you don’t have to wait 24 hours—it says that the rabbis decreed the pot has to be washed whether or not 24 hours have passed because of people who don’t wait 24 hours.[27] At one time, not everyone was so stringent about the treatment of meat and dairy dishes; in Beit Yosef, Joseph Karo expresses surprise that Baal Haitur allowed cooking dairy in a pot that had been used to cook meat, even the same day.[28]

In the 1500 years that have transpired since the end of the rabbinic period, methods of food preparation have changed dramatically. In developed countries with stringent health regulations and industrial strength dishwashers, we can be reasonably confident that pots, pans, and dishes (unlike grills) will not impart forbidden tastes. Modern cookware and plates are non-porous, and going through an industrial dishwasher would certainly remove tastes as effectively as kashering in boiling water. Any small particles that survived a trip through a dishwasher would certainly meet most people’s definition of a tam lifgam, a disgusting taste, which cannot render something unkosher. Thus, many of the fences relating to dishes might not be relevant today. This may be what has led many observant Jews to overlook these fences in their eating out habits.
. . .

As was stated earlier, if you can avoid eating anything that has more than 1/60 (bitul b’shishim) by volume of a forbidden substance, or that has a forbidden taste, you are not eating anything that is not kosher.

The bitul b’shishim rule is clearly the easier of the two to meet. If you go to a restaurant and order your meal carefully specifying that the meal must not contain any meat substances, asking about potentially troublesome ingredients such as chicken stock in sauce bases, we can be reasonably confident that the food will not contain more than 1/60 of a forbidden substance. But will it acquire a forbidden taste?

The answer is “it depends.” Most restaurants would not grill a piece of fish directly on a grill that had just been used for meat without a very thorough cleaning: it would almost certainly impart an unfavorable flavor. On the other hand, some McDonald’s restaurants serve veggie burgers, but since they are “meat flavored” anyway, they cook them on the same grill with their burgers—and bacon cheeseburgers! Logic would dictate that in such a circumstance there is a serious danger of the food absorbing a forbidden taste, and one should NOT eat such a veggie burger.

Tam k’ikar (the taste is the essential thing) as a standard has a major problem: people’s taste buds differ. Is there a “golden standard,” a particular level of sensitivity, which should be applied? The discussion in the Bavli Chullin 97a implies the standard is a gentile cook. The discussion in the Talmud says that if you dropped a piece of meat into a dairy dish, and you were not sure if it had imparted a meat taste to the mixture, you should find a gentile cook and have him taste it.[43] If a gentile cook can detect the taste of the forbidden substance, it is forbidden for Jews to eat it. Since gentile cooks are not always available, the rabbis ruled that we can rely on bitul b’shishim in those cases. Therefore, the argument about which takes priority, bitul b’shishim or tam k’ikar becomes circular—if you do not have a gentile cook around to taste it, you go back to relying on bitul b’shishim.

This may help explain why eating out in unsupervised restaurants has become so common among the otherwise-observant. When I discussed this issue with a colleague who eats dairy meals in unsupervised restaurants, he shrugged his shoulders and said ”it’s all bitul b’shishim anyway.” There is, in fact, some halakhic justification for this seemingly-offhand response.

Some would argue that we seem to be relying on bitul b’shishim l’chatchila (up front, ahead of time), which is explicitly prohibited by the Shulhan Arukh.[44] Traditionally, it is only permitted to rely on bitul b’shishim in the case of an “accidental” mixing. It would be forbidden to intentionally put even a very small amount of a forbidden substance into a much larger volume of permitted substance, relying on bitul b’shishim. The response to this charge is that as long as the consumer takes care to inquire about the ingredients in the food and the preparation of the food with reasonable diligence, any forbidden substance in the food is both undesired and unintended, and therefore is present in a b’dievad (after the fact) status—i.e., it is accidental—which all authorities agree is permissible.

Those dining in a non-supervised restaurant needs to take care to ask enough questions to satisfy themselves that they are not eating anything forbidden. This means asking about ingredients—especially inquiring after soup bases, sauce bases, flavorings, etc. Some dishes that sound vegetarian, e.g., risotto with mushrooms, might turn out to have been cooked with chicken stock. In addition to asking about ingredients, it may mean inquiring about method of preparation; as mentioned above, a veggie burger prepared on a meat grill could possibly pick up the taste of the meat.

What I learn form this is that, with the exception of ensuring that shechita is done correctly, all kashrut certification is unecessary. All one needs to do is make an honest attempt to inquire about the ingredients used, and any noncompliance with the standards of the shulchan aruch is "accidental" and not your fault. And given that the recurring scandals that seem to pop up in the kashrut certification field, it would seem that eliminating hekshers would remove a large amount of chilul hashem. And eliminating the rules about sperate dishes etc. would also go a long way towards increasing observance by making it easier. After all, who says that Torah obervance whould be hard? "It is not in Heaven" (Deut. 30:12), that it should be such a burden.

Truth can be found in fiction, but is all fiction truth?

OK, I've got to weigh in on this "Path to 9/11" Mock-udrama.

Here we see a conservative weigh in after much anguished internet pilpul:

There is a double standard, in which the Left believes in "fake but accurate." It's how you get an entertainer like Katie Couric reading the news. Perceptions mean everything; facts are inconveniences.


Is this a texbook example of psychological projection, or what?

The author of the this fine quote should spend some time on Daily Kos, and he'd see that (1) Katie Couric isn't exactly regarded as the standard-bearer of the "Left" (whatever that is), and (2) there was a lot of criticism (though not universal) of Michael Moore from the left. (Our author spends a lot of time obsessing about the innacuracies in Farenheit 9/11.)

More to the point, neither Michael Moore (or Katie Couric, for that matter) are, or ever were, sponsored by the Democratic Party. Whatever "sins" Mr. Moore or Ms. Curic are guilty of are totally irrelevant to this issue. The Democrats, especially the ones defamed in Disney's sorry mutilation of history, have every right to be angry.

Now some of you might say, "CA, you're being a hypocrite! Didn't you write that God should have given us a Torah that was an acknowledge work of fiction that, nonetheless contains truth?" If fiction can contain truth, what's the problem with the Path to 9/11?

Yes, dear readers, I did write that. But there's a difference between a Torah based on an acknowleged fantasy story, and fantasy portraying itself has history. The right-wing concept of "truthiness" little more than the "big lie" gussied up in philosophical BS.

I say you can learn general truth about life, the universe and everything from reading Harry Potter (and also the Torah, even if you believe that the Torah was written by JEPD and YHVH.). That doesn't mean that I believe that there is literally a wizard named Harry Potter or a Ministry of Magic, or that the latest Monsey rabbinical ruling about what to do with the treif chickens was revealed on Sinai by a supernatural God.

The right-wing "truthiness" gurus believ that one can derive specific truths about specific people, policies, political parties, etc. from fiction. They believe that because some yarn-spinner insists that Bil Clinton did nothing about Al-Qeda that Bill Clinton really did do nothing about Al-Qada, even though there's an incredible amount of documentation that he did.

And that's the difference between a fantasy-based Torah, and being divorced from reality.

Friday, September 08, 2006

"And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD"

Crossposted to DovBear

Good Shabbos.

That might as well be the motto for the coat of arms of the House of David. I can accept that God annointed David and his descendants as the rightful King of Israel. After all, being omnipotent, God is certainly capable of making mistakes andusing bad judgement. But that doesn't mean that we have to pray to God to request that the Line of David be restored to power. That command isn't in the Torah. We might as well be praying to God to send us more gnerations of the Bush family to rule over us!

I too the time to research the entire Line of the House of David, up to the destruction of the First Temple and the Babylonia exile. Here's to sorry Tale (mostly excerpted from the wikipedia articles on the subject kings):

David: Adulturer and murderer. Got off on the basis of some half-assed "teshuva." (If I had been God, I would have insisted that he divorce Bathsheva and abdicate his throne in favor of hisoldest son.) So Bloody that even God got queasy and told him that he couldn't build the Temple.

Solomon: Overrated in the "wisdom" department. (Would you want someline like him in charge of Child Custody Services?) Plus, he had a thing for shiksas, which ended up introducing idolatry to Israel.

Rehoboam: Whips weren't good enough for this spiritual descendant of Pharaoh, he wanted scorpions. Responsible for the division of the Israelite kingdom. Judah sunk into moral and spiritual decay

Abijam: "Walked in all the sins of his father"

Asa: “Did what was good in the eyes of the Lord" Baruch Hashem! Finally!

Jehoshaphat: "The author of 2 Chronicles generally praises his reign, stating that the kingdom enjoyed a great measure of peace and prosperity, the blessing of God resting on the people "in their basket and their store."" The last time the Jews were ever able to string two good leaders together in a row.

Jehoram: “Abandoned Hashem, the God of his fathers.”

Ahazia: “Under the influence of his mother Athaliah, he introduced forms of worship that the author of Kings found offensive."

Athalia: “Athaliah, as queen of Judah, had all possible successors to David executed except one. However, a grandson of hers named Joash escaped the purge and was raised in secret by the priest Jehoiada. Six years later, Athaliah was surprised when Jehoiada revealed Joash and proclaimed him king of Judah. She rushed to stop this rebellion, but was captured and executed.

The story of her actions is told in 2 Kings 8:25 – 11:16.” Also was known for introducing idol worship. By the way, so much for the feminist conceit that women rulers are kinder and gnetler creature who will end all of the fighting and oppression.

Jehoash: “While the High Priest lived, Jehoash favored the worship of God and observed the Law; but on his death Johoash was led into supporting other gods; Zechariah, the son and successor of the High Priest, was put to death. For these deeds, the author of the Books of Kings believed Jehoash brought down on the land the judgement of God, and it was oppressed by the Aramean invaders. He was buried in the City of David (2 Kings 12:21). “

Amaziah: “Amaziah began to worship some of the idols he took from the Edomites, which the author of Chronicles believes led to his ruin and his defeat by Jehoash, king of Israel whom he had challenged to battle. His defeat was followed by a conspiracy that took his life (2 Kings 14:8-14, 19). He was slain at Lachish, to which he had fled, and his body was brought upon horses to Jerusalem, where it was buried in the royal sepulchre (2 Kings 14:19, 20; 2 Chr. 25:27, 28). “

Uzziah: :In the earlier part of his reign, under the influence of Zechariah, he was faithful to Hashem, and "did that which was right in the sight of the Lord" (2 Kings 15:3; 2 Chr. 26:4, 5); but toward the close of his long life "his heart was lifted up to his destruction," and he wantonly invaded the priest's office (2 Chr. 26:16), and entering the sanctuary proceeded to offer incense on the golden altar. Azariah the High Priest saw the tendency of such a daring act on the part of the king, and with a band of eighty priests he withstood him (2 Chr. 26:17), saying, "It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense." Uzziah was suddenly struck with tzaraas while in the act of offering incense (26:19-21), and he was driven from the Temple and compelled to reside in "a several house" to the day of his death (2 Kings 15:5, 27; 2 Chr. 26:3). “

Jotham: Nothing bad to report. (But nothing particularly good, either)

Ahaz: He is said to have given himself up to a life of wickedness, introducing many pagan and idolatrous customs (Isa. 8:19; 38:8; 2 Kings 23:12). He ignored the remonstrances and warnings of the prophets Isaiah, Hosea, and Micah, and appealed to Tiglath-Pileser III, the king of Assyria, for help against Rezin, king of Damascus, and Pekah, Prince of Israel, who threatened Jerusalem. This brought a great injury to his kingdom, and his own humiliating subjection to the Assyrians (2 Kings 16:7, 9; 15:29).

Hezekiah: These sources portray him as a great and good king, following the example of his great-grandfather Uzziah. He introduced religious reform, reinstated religious traditions. He set himself to abolish idolatry from his kingdom, and among other things which he did for this end, he destroyed the "brazen serpent," which had been relocated at Jerusalem, and had become an object of idolatrous worship. A great reformation was wrought in the kingdom of Judah in his day (2 Kings 18:4; 2 Chronicles 29:3-36). The author of 2 Kings ends his account of Hezekiah with praise (18:5).

Menashe: A refutation of the maxim that “the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.” Hezekiah definitely needed parenting lessons. The naughtiest king in the whole history of Judah. Paganorama. On the other hand, after a captivity in Babylonia (2 Chron 33), he partially repented, but made no thorough reforms.

Amon: More moral decay

Josiah: A sincere reformation and elimination of Menashe's idolatrous practices. For all his faithfulness to Hashem, his reward was to be killed in battle.

Jehoahaz: “And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his fathers had done.” Ended up as a captive to Necho II in Egypt.

Jehoiakim: Tried to double cross his rightful liege Lord (Babylonia). Call him the patron saint of Ariel Sharon, who was doing a similarsame thing to his American overlords withiut even taking the sensible course of finding another ally. Returned to old idolatry. Set in motion the events that ended with the destruction of the Temple.

Jeconiah: “And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father had done. “

Zedekiah: The Last King of Judah. “And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD,” He double-crossed the Babylonians, and got the destruction of the Temple for his trouble. Maybe we should call him the patron saint of Ehud Olmert.

So there you have it. The sorry record of the Line of David. Out of 22 kings, you get David and Solomn, who are both flawed characters, 5 good kings (Asa, Jeshosephat, Jotham, Hezekiah, and Josiah), 2 kings who started off good, but backslid: Jehoash and Uzziah, and 13 kings who were so bad they make George W. Bush look good. Tell me agan why we pray to have this line of sorry-assed poor performers retored to power?

Mashiach? We don't need no steenkin' Mashiach!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Israel: A Paper Tiger

Crossposed to DovBear

Looks like the Big Tough Jews of Israel have failed again. Their embargo against Lebanon is folding fast, evenbefore the Germans(!) come to help the Jews.


The DPA German news agency reported on Wednesday that an Israel Defense Forces officer admitted that the army could not enforce an air blockade over Lebanon and prevent civilian aircraft from landing at the Beirut airport.

"We regret the fact, but we have no choice. We do not want to hit civilian planes," a military official was quoted as telling the German news agency, when asked whether Israel would allow civilian aircraft to break the air blockade.

Meanwhile, an airliner from a British Airways franchise took off from London's Heathrow Airport earlier Wednesday for a direct flight to Beirut, in what it said would be a breach of the air embargo imposed at the start of the war with Hezbollah eight weeks ago.

The announcement by British Airways franchise partner BMED also coincided with efforts by Annan to get Israel to lift its air and sea blockade of Lebanon.

"British Airways/BMED is breaking the air embargo and flying into [Beirut's] Rafik al-Hariri International Airport tonight," the company said in a statement.

BMED's commercial director, Jonathan Grisdale said the airline was resuming flights to Beirut after securing assurances from the British government it was safe to do so.

"The blockade is still in place," Grisdale said, denying that BMED had sought Israel's permission for the flight.

"We are a U.K. civil airline trying to operate a lawful service in Lebanon," he said by telephone from London. "Our government has given us clearance and permission that we can operate safely and securely on that basis."

An IDF spokeswoman said permission to land in Beirut is granted to any flight that meets unspecified criteria.

"Yesterday 20 flights were permitted to land," she said. "There is obviously an interest to let whoever wants to return [to Lebanon] for humanitarian reasons do so."

Lebanon's Middle East Airlines and Royal Jordanian began flying regularly into the capital last month, but have complied with Israel's insistence that all such flights go via Amman. Qatar's national airline began flying commercial flights into Lebanon earlier this week. Israel said it had coordinated the flight, but Qatar Airlines said it had gone ahead without Israeli permission.

Gulf Air said Wednesday it was resuming commercial flights to Lebanon, with the first flight to be operated on Saturday.

The utter bankruptcy of the ideology of Olmert, Peretz, and the quasi-Likudnik Israeli "center" is laid bare for all to see. The Big Tough Jews think they can bully their neighbors, but when push comes to shove, they're not willing to start a war with counties that can fight back. Of course, I suppose Olmert and Kadima are better than Netanyahu and Lieberman, they would probably be crazy enough to shoot down the planes and really start WW 3.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

A chance to rewrite the Bible

(Cross-posted to DovBear)

Something that has alway bothered me about the Bible is why did the authors (whether it was God or a commttee of Judahite scribes insist on basing their Holy Book on factual history? There may have been some short-term politicalbenefits, but in the long run, the fact that the tales of the Tanakh can be tested by scientific means can only result in people eventually rejecting the whole thing as fantasy, throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. And even people who do believe in it as literal truth end up following a distorted version of the Torah's main teachings: They worry more about a supernatural God's political promise to an extinct tribe or the alleged supernatural consequences of failing to observe ritual law than they worry about "love they neighbor as thyself" or the other great moral and ethical teachings. In fact, the "morality" that is emphasized is tribal, violent, and unworthy of God's true teachings.

Thus, I wonder why didn't God just give us a Torah that, up front, was presented as a finctional fantasy. After all, most fiction that I read today contains more truth than the stuff presented as journalism. If all of the laws of the Torah were presented in the context of fiction, perhaps people would focus on the morality and ethics andnot try to justify tibal wars.

As an example and thought experiment, let's imagine the Torah if it were set in Middle Earth instead of the ancient Near East. Let's say that the basic story was that God gave Frodo a ring with great powers and told him to go to Mt. Doom with an army of hobbits, to destroy the ring, as a test (becuase using the ring would corrupt the user). As part of Frodo's quest, he would have to make alliances with dwarves, elves, and men, some of whom might not believe in God (more tests-- how could Frodo keep the alliances without betraying God). Finally, at the end, Frodo destroys the ring (or maybe he fails the test, but Gollum snatches the ring and falls to his death, etc.) All the time during this quest God is giving the Hobbits all of the Laws of the Torah, oral and written as we know them.

After the Ring is destroyed, God gives the Hobbits the land of the Shire. But the Hobbits grow fat, forsake theTorah, and start up with the idolatry. So God sends prophets, etc. But it doeslittle good, so God sends the Orc-king to defeat the Shire and send the Hobbits into galut, with the promise that, once they suitable repent of their sins, God will restore them to their land. (And to end the work on a nechemta, God inlfuences King Aragorn (who defeated the orcs) to allow the Hobbitish exiles in Gondor to return to the Shire and rebuild Bag End.)

Such a tale would have the advantage of making the Torah available to all the people of the world, rather than just one tribe. Anyone can consider him or herself a spiritual descendant of the Hobbits by accepting the Torah. And there's no complications about what to do with the tribe of people who were involved in the story, as they are non-existient and imaginary. Furthermore, if we all accepted that the tales were fiction, we could save ourselves the trouble and wasted time (not to mention bitter feelings) involved in struggling to reconcile Torah and Science.

So here's my challenge to all you fan-fiction fans: How about rewriting the Torah (oral and written) to be rest in the world of Middle Earth? Let's see if it can be done, and then we'll worry about getting copyright authorization from the Tolkien estate.