Monday, March 27, 2006

Musical Interlude

Sorry I haven't been posting much of anything lately, or commenting as much as usual on other people's blogs for that matter. A seemingly ever-intensifying cycle of work and weekend cons have been frying my brain.

So I decided to put up some music.

First is my original tune for the zemer Yah Ribon, inspired partially by Bette Midler's The Rose (as applied to Deror Yiqra’). This version was recorded one Saturday Night by me with some unexpected harmonizing from Mar Gavriel. I wasn't expecting it, so it confused me a few times. Yah Ribon has a wide range of variant texts, due to the fact that it's in Aramaic, so your milage [bentsher] may vary. And my accent is funny. But people who I've taught the tune to so far have liked it.

Then we have the partial debut of my original zemer for Shabbat and Holidays, Tzave’u Tzeva’ot. This is just the first and last stanzas; the middle ones still need to be filled in a bit.

for those of you who asked for a clearer recording
the recording has now been switched

Thursday, March 23, 2006

ככה לו בעולמו

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I Am Geek Orthodox

I was invested as "Geek Orthodox Patriarch" by Habib of KiwiJewPundit about five months ago.

Now I have a t-shirt to prove it.
(picture added a few months later)

All thanks to Lunacon, and the cool people I met there.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Megilla Meme

RenReb (») DovBear » LabRab » GoblinKing...
(hey, i needed a two-word doubly-capitalized name!)

Things I Thought About During The Megilla Reading:
(not in order)

  • Wait, MG, you want me to gabbai-check you?
  • Damn it's hot under the lights up here on the bima...
  • Maybe if I scan ahead a few words I can take off my coat!
  • I feel somewhat uncomfortable up here in my half-done costume.
  • If he neighs the word סוס like a crazed bronco again I am so losing control...
  • Whoops, there he goes again; pause until I stop ROTFL, nu?!
  • Ahhashveirosh was a sick freak.
  • I wonder what these JTS people think of Ahhashveirosh's anti-feminist decree? Well, they are in the mehhitza-minyan...
  • יושב בשער המלך = 'government court official', as taught by a high school Tanakh teacher (probably based on Da‘at Miqra’)
  • I should memorize this ומרדכי יצא line, since it's different than the song.
  • Stop thinking about double entendres involving the functioning of the Persian royal court!
  • Okay, gotta get ready to start making a Simpsons 'Nelson laugh' when Haman (boo!) gets what's coming to him!
  • Whoops, missed the first 'Haman gets what's coming to him' use of his name...
  • I wonder what Zeresh thought of Haman's "ohavav".
  • According to some translations, לתלות means 'to impale', not 'to hang'. Which is more disgusting? And which is more disgusting to imagine Haman's 10 sons put up together on a single עץ of?


  • Some of these kids are really good... some of them are not.
  • I am so not fulfilling my requirement with this reading.
  • Why won't these students just shut up already?
  • Better stop using random pieces of wood to bang Haman's name, the students might get ideas...
  • Is this costume pseudo-tallis falling off my shoulders because I'm not wearing a jacket, or because it's not actually a tallis?
  • Last night's reading was way more exciting... when will this one end?


  • I feel like such a loser, needing the megilla read for me again.
  • I hope the guy reading doesn't mind.
  • The trop is a lot simpler this time, but I don't mind because I want to get back to the se‘uda!
  • I hope the reader isn't intimidated by LabRab and all his relatives correcting him by heart every time he makes a mistake!
  • I probably should make a little noise at Haman's name, even if it's unimportant.
  • Maybe I could learn to lein the megilla, too!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Synthesis Inheres in the Doing

I quoted this in the comments to the Godol Hador's post "Unhappy with Modern Orthodoxy?" over here, but I like it so much I decided to just put it up here.

It's from the end of a chapter in a Modern Jewish History book that I used in graduate school, but neglected to write down the name of the book or the author of this chapter.
"[the Orthodox], like other German Jews, possessed a 'hyphenated identity'. Yet the reformulation of Jewish tradition they provided reveals that a 'hyphenated identity' or successful synthesis works not because it is logical. It works because one lives it. The synthesis inheres in the doing. It is this which allowed the Geman Orthodox, like other Western Jews, to create a modern Orthodox traditionalism that worked. This may be why, in the end, these people hold up a mirror to other modern Jews who are engaged in the same process of constructing and living within a tradition in a modern, pluralistic world. All Jews who affirm their identity and religion in today's world are ultimately engaged in the same task that they were. All Jews who struggle with the Tradition in the modern West employ, as the German Orthodox did, a new language to awaken and defend an ancient faith and tradition."

In other words, Modern Orthodoxy — the ideals of Tora uMada‘, Tora ‘im Derekh Eretz, Tora va‘Avoda — is not about belief. It's not about dogma. It's about action, and the living practice of being dati ‘olami — religious-and-worldly.

I Am A Member Of A Sanctifying Civilization.

And I Am A Member Of A Human Civilization.

I Am A Member Of A Civilization.

I do believe that there are dogma limits and principles of faith that characterize [Modern] Orthodoxy, just like any other stream of Judaism. I just think this is also an interesting and meaningful way to look at it.

Monday, March 13, 2006

From Russia With Hamantashen

Happy Purim!

Tonight I went to Mar Gavriel's (ignore the haters in that comment thread) Megilla reading. It was in-sayn! Ma‘ariv went fine, and then I ran out to the batmobile room after Shemoneh ‘Esreih, and when I get back I get suddenly drafted to be gabbai and doublecheck The Mar's reading! Seemingly because I was one of the few people there familiar enough with the pronunciations he uses in order to tell what's a mistake and what's just funny-sounding.

The reading was fun, and I eventually got used to the hot overhead lights pointed at the bima. Mar Gavriel used a lot of entertaining megilla shtick (voices and sound effects), although I almost FOTBL (fell off the bima laughing) by the extreme neigh-sounding way he was cantillating the word sus (horse) whenever it appeared.

After the reading, we all (that's him, me, and a bunch of people you've probably heard of from his blog) went back to his place for food and Purim silliness. Once there, I finished putting on my costume, because I didn't want to freak people out in public.

Why would my costume freak people out?

For Purim night I dressed up as Антон Городецкий (Anton Gorodyetskiy), the main character of the movie Ночной Дозор (Nochnoy Dozor = Night Watch). Btw, for those of you who don't read Cyrillic, the ch in Nochnoy is pronounced like in chomp, not Chanukka. Anyway, Anton is one of the Others (supernatural creatures), who are divided between Light (good) and Dark (evil). He's a vampire who works for the Night Watch — the Light organization that makes sure the Dark Others don't break the Treaty that exists between the factions.

Anton looks like this:
(riding the subway in Москва — Moscow)

Let's zoom in a little:
(he wears sunglasses inside at night because he's a vampire)

And here's a shot with one of his gloves:
(the red fingerless gloves are probably just to look badass)

He fights other vampires with an ultraviolet flashlight:
(and scares normal people on the subway)

During the course of the movie he gets a charm
that he has to wear around his neck in order to
protect him from the head of the Dark Others.
It looks like this:
(the chain-looking thing)

I wore black pants and boots, borrowed a hooded sweatshirt from an apartmentmate and wore a long black coat over it, bought red gloves and cut the fingers off of them, wore sunglasses [at night and inside], and made a neck charm out of paperclips. Oh and I was carrying around a flashlight that I shone in people's faces to make sure they're not vampires ;-) . And on the way home I reenacted that exact badass "I own the subway" pose on the 1 train.

Night Watch is an amazing modern-fantasy/horror/action movie that just happens to have been made in Russia. Don't fear the subtitles. Go out and see it (assuming you see movies at all)! There's only one very short and easily-avoided "not safe for frummies" scene with a woman covered in feathers and slime taking a bath.

Most of the pictures above are from the trailer.
Go see it, and have an evil-vanquishing Purim!


(less than a month later)

11 Nisan, 5766 / April 8, 2006

More pictures from Purim, taken by Taylweaver:

Saturday, March 11, 2006

זכור את אשר עשה לך אינטרנט

Quick Saturday Night post:

Mar Gavriel stayed by me for Shabbos.

Friday Night we went to a Carlebach minyan in someone's apartment, and I remembered why I can't stand Carlebach minyans. And this was a very well done Carlebach minyan — which just meant that I could stand it even less. Shrug, it's just not my aesthetic. Long stretches of nai nai nai nai without words is not my thing. I like singing, as long as it's singing the words. And clapping? Bleah. Not my goat. If you're into that, though, go for it!

Anyway, Saturday Day me and Gavriel were walking to where we were going to eat lunch after shul, and this woman randomly accosts us and says that she reads our blogs! If you're reading this, I'm sorry I was a bit shocked and forgot to be polite and introduce myself. I hope you had a good Shabbos, and feel free to comment (if you haven't been doing so already)!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Hall of the Gooligan King

Thanks to Jameel's Purim Parody Party, there is now an imposter Goblin King floating somewhere out there in the blogiverse. Very funny first post, but I'm not all about representin' NYC/BP and meeting up with other bloggers! Am I? The hh transliteration was definitely a nice touch. The goblins demand more amusement!

(and i think i know who made it; we'll see...)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Fundamentalism Chat

An AIM Conversation With My Brother

Big Brother: where is the pasuk GH quotes here from?
Big Brother:
*the verse:
ושמרתם ועשיתם כי הוא חכמתכם ובינתכם לעיני העמים
אשר ישמעון את כל החקים האלה ואמרו רק עם חכם ונבון הגוי הגדול הזה
Therefore observe and perform [the commandments] —
for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the eyes of the nations,
that, when they hear all these laws, shall say:
'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people!'
Steg: Devarim
Steg: want more specific?
Steg: near the end
*note: i was wrong
Steg: lemme search for the exact reference

Big Brother: yah

Steg: Devarim 4:6

Big Brother: excellent thank you

Steg: no problem
Steg: why? just wondering?

Big Brother: its a good line
Big Brother: useful
Big Brother: in ignoring fundamentalists

Steg: heh
Steg: of course they think that you need to beat people over the head in order to convince them of The Truth or else they won't see it

Big Brother: that goes aggainst the pshat

Steg: fundamentalist jews don't care about peshat
Steg: they just care about drash
Steg: taken literally :-P

Big Brother: OY
Big Brother: crazy
Big Brother: you should post that on your torahblog

Steg: how about if i post this conversation?
Steg: nice chat-transcript post, like Psychotoddler does sometimes

Big Brother: shrug ok

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

One Two Three Four Five

So I've already passed the magic number 12345 on my counter.

It's been up for about 6 months already.

If anyone can find a post in which I explicitly mention putting it up, I will be very grateful.

Thanks to all my loyal and treasonous readers, especially those of you with itchy clicking fingers on the 'reload' button!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Teaneck Gedolim Thing

Rabbi Student predicted that it would be non-controversial.
President Butler predicted that it would be very controversial.

I didn't make it.

Went to a friend's play reading instead.

Anyone who was there care to comment?

Rabbi Maryles (who doesn't live in the area) is also looking to debrief an agent.

And of course the Godol Hador gets more responses than both of us put together...

Friday, March 03, 2006

Unchosen II

You may remember my November 2005 post No This Is Not Tobypalooza (Defending Uncle Ishmael). In it, I took on the anti-Yishma‘eil attitude common in the Jewish world today (seemingly due to our conflict with his spiritual/biological/eponymous descendents) and typified by DovBear's archnemesis Toby Katz.

In my continuing quest as a Dati ‘Olami Jew to express the Torah's darkhey no‘am for Jew and Non-Jew alike, let us now turn to the famous midrash about God offering the Torah to Other Nations before forcing it upon Beney Yisra’eil like an overturned barrel. (mount sinai as shotgun wedding, or even rape? maybe topic for another post...)

Sifrey (Devarim 343) on Devarim/Deuteronomy 33:2
Another explanation:
And then he said, 'God came from Sinai...'

When the Holy, Blessèd Is He, revealed himself to give Torah to Israel, it was not to Israel alone that he appeared, but also to all the nations.

First he went to the children of ‘Eisav.
He said to them: "Do you accept the Torah?"
They said, "What's written in it?"
He said, 'Do not murder!'
They said, "Lord of the World, the whole being of these people — their father guaranteed them on nothing but the sword, as it says and by your sword you shall live. How could we accept the Torah?"
And they did not want to accept it.

Then he went to the children of ‘Amon and Mo’av.
He said to them: "Do you accept the Torah?"
They said, "What's written in it?"
He said, 'Do not commit adultery!'
They said, "Lord of the World, the whole being of these people comes from nothing other than a drop of sexual immorality, as it says and so the two daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father. How could we accept the Torah?"
And they did not want to accept it.

Then he went to the children of Ishmael.
He said to them: "Do you accept the Torah?"
They said, "What's written in it?"
He said, 'Do not steal!'
They said, "Lord of the World, the whole being of these people is that they survive on nothing other than theft and robbery [or: their father was a lêstês, a bandit], as it says and he will be a wild donkey of a man. How could we accept the Torah?"
And they did not want to accept it...

People usually read this midrash to say 'look at how immoral those nasty g–––m are! they were offered the Torah and rejected it because they didn't want to have to stop doing horrible sins!'
Of course, just as in the case of the 'Dos iz nit Tobypalooza' midrash, a careful reading of the text proves them wrong.
Do Edom, ‘Amon and Mo’av, and Yishma‘eil reject the Torah because they were bloodthirsty, horny, and klepto? No. They wanted to accept the Torah, but they felt that accepting it would be giving up their identity.

‘Eisav was blessed by his father — Yitzhhaq — to live by his sword. He was a man whose entire life was on the edge of death. War was literally his blessing and his birthright. Accepting the Torah would have meant rejecting ‘Eisav/Edom's national identity, and Yitzhhaq's blessing.

‘Amon and Mo’av were descended from Lot's incestuous relationship with his daughters. They didn't reject the Torah because they thought forbidden sex acts were too much fun to give up, they rejected it because they would have been rejecting their identity. It would have been a disgrace to their ancestors who, after the destruction of Sedom, believed they were the last humans on the planet and only wanted to sustain the species.

Yishma‘eil, like his nephew ‘Eisav, was given a destiny which his descendents would not relinquish. Accepting the Torah would have meant rejecting not an ancestor's blessing but a divine mandate — Hagar was told by an angel of God that her son would be a 'wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone's hand against him'. This was the role he was given. His descendents could have changed their ways, but that would have meant trading in their own blessing for that of Isaac.

It's not about sin. It's about honor.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Chocolate Covered

Sifrey (Devarim 103) on Devarim/Deuteronomy 14:19-20
You may eat all pure winged creatures
This is a positive commandment.
And all winged swarming things are taboo to you
This is a negative commandment.

Ribbí Shim‘on says:
You may eat all pure winged creatures
Those are pure [=kosher] grasshoppers.
And all winged swarming things are taboo to you, don't eat them
Those are impure [=nonkosher] grasshoppers.

So eating kosher winged creatures is a positive commandment... and the winged creatures mentioned here may be grasshoppers/locusts. Is this bad news just for vegetarians, or the rest of us too?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

מרץ בד"ץ

Hhareidi woman on Meretz's list.

Read all about it!

I saw those I believe in God, but I will separate religion and state banners in Jerusalem, but went by too fast to get a good look. I assumed they were from a Reform or Conservative member of the Meretz party, fighting for recognition by the Chief Rabbinate or something like that. Turns out it's so much more interesting...