"From Moshe till Moshe, there arose none like Moshe." (famous Jewish folk saying)

Saturday, February 26, 2005


I’ll be off line next week. Shavua Tov

Moshe's word on disengagement

I was commenting in Chayyei Sarah’s Blog about the disengagement and I realized that I should write on my blog why at this time I am not in favor of the disengagement. I write at this time because maybe at some time in the future if certain conditions were met, I would be more optimistic about it.

The ultimate questions I would ask is will this evacuation bring us any closer to a peaceful coexistence, which would include security with our neighbors. Unfortunately, my prediction is that it will not bring peace or security. When/if the evacuation occurs you will see the Arabs burning Israeli flags, desecrating our synagogues (if we don’t destroy them first) and cemeteries. If a Jew accidentally walks on the wrong beach or takes a wrong turn into their neighborhood, will they be welcomed in? My prediction unfortunately is that they will be violently murdered and their bodies will be mutilated. These images are predicable. We have seen this so many times before. Would you call this peace? Is this peace?

The bottom line is that no matter what we give, the other side will claim we are not doing enough, giving enough and they will continue their (failing) effort until they claim ALL of Israel. Even though they have been up to 45 terror warnings each day under the once sided supposed cease-fire, if we kill one terrorist protecting our borders and our people, they will claim we violated the cease-fire and will retaliate. And they will do so at our expense and these prices are way to high. As we saw today in Tel-Aviv, unfortunately, it was only matter of time.

We must open our eyes to the present and not forget history. As we are making concessions, the song if “it’s not enough” is already being sung. The song of Gaza is not enough and the prisoners were not enough. The song of not demolishing their homes is not enough and giving back the dead exploded terrorist bodies is not enough. These songs should be way to familiar to all of us. And the obvious question, what are we getting in return? So far, lets list a few: Kassam rockets falling every day; soldiers being shot at every day; road side bombs being planted EVERY SINGLE DAY; and what has Abbas actively done about it? Yes, that is a rhetorical question! Maybe I would have trusted Abbas if as Israel let out 500 prisoners as a goodwill gesture, he had not simultaneously signed the execution orders of 47 Palestinians convicted of collaborating with Israel. Um, let me see now, you are executing individuals who collaborated with someone you are trying to make peace with. Doesn’t anyone see the hypocrisy?

Will there be Palestinian protest against today’s homicide bombing in Tel-Aviv? Will people refuse the candies given out by the homicide bombers family in honor of his successful mission? Yes, these are rhetorical questions. Watch CNN for coverage of the Palestinian celebrations…no, it wont be there.

But his chinuch and his Rebbe (lahvdil) prescribed a certain script. Bomb, shoot, kill, terrorize and then condemn. Israel then states it remains committed to the cease-fire. This is all going according to plan.

I would be in favor of something like this: Let us live in peace. Let us not be afraid when we send our children off to school, that we may never see them again. Let us not be suspicious when we get on a bus, go to the mall, supermarket, movie theater or the cell-phone store that this will not become a target. Let us live in peace without terror warnings and rockets falling.

Control your people for one year. One year of peace. One year of burring our dead who have died only from natural causes. One year. Show me you can control your people and you are interested in allowing us to live with the freedom of peace. After one year, then we can talk. And if you can’t control your people, then we will wait for leadership who can.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

What will surly be a lively discussion

Additional thoughts on disengagement

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A limited time post - A memorial tribute video

I have been so upset by what is going on lately with the entire Gush Katif thing. We're giving back exploded terrorist bodies, allowing terrorist back to Beit Lechem, letting 500 terrorist out of prison, giving over land, abandoning machsomim, easing restrictions, etc..... all the while, they are still shooting, planting road side bombs, lobbing mortars and kassam rockets and shooting at our soldiers every day! Have we forgotten so quickly the price we have already paid! As soon as these terrorist feel that we are not holding our side of the bargain, ie. Not letting more terrorsit back to their terrorism, not giving over enough land including Jerusalem, these terrorist will be re-activated! This is so predictable and the price will be unbearable.

I heard the song and was moved by it. Even though I'll never be able to totally publicize it (b/c of the woman's voice thing) I still wanted to do something... So this is what I did. If you are interested, you can find the link through dot.mac by following this link

Please note: This link will be removed after a few days.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Over the Top

I play basketball every erev shabbos on our yishuv. To keep the playing field somewhat equal, this is the “30’s-40’s married only” game. But on our yeshuv, we have a few 18-20’s that are still eligible because they ARE married! Leaving the house in the midst of shabbos preparations could create shalom bayis issues but my aishes chayil appreciates that this is my only opportunity for exercise and reluctantly permits this means of expression.

In the last 18months since I have begun to play on the yeshuv, I have broken 4 fingers (not at the same time) dislocated a few ribs and have incurred multiple cuts and bruises on various appendages. But one of the rules in our family is, “You play –You pay” and “choices and consequences”…So I am not aloud to complain about any post game pain. I must quietly endure and lick my wounds in silence. No sympathy! The only outward acceptable evidence of injury is entry to the freezer for an ice pack upon my return home after the game. I have a regimen of 3 Advil before the game and 3 Advil after the game. This seems to help.

Despite playing with tape on my fingers and the potential for additional injuries, I love to play basketball. I have even worn out my first pair of sneakers since I was in high school. I got a great deal new pair of Jordan’s at an outlet in Lancaster, PA on my last trip to the US.

It may be strange to those who know me and those who have met me in person, that in high school, I was the captain of our basketball team. This may be a surprise because I am from the vertically challenged. At a whopping 5’5” I have never consider myself short. 5’4” is short but I am not! I wore the number 18 and they called me Dr. A, a flattering reference to Dr. J from the 76ers. I can’t for the life of me remember how many games we won or lost but we always had a great time. In the days of my youth we could play all day.

This past Friday was a usual day. We play with guys at all heights and skill levels. Some guys are really good and have even played college ball. There are others like me who are decent to the guys are really not that great. Overall, the level of play can sometimes be at a very high level. There is no ‘official’ referee so we call our own fouls. Sometimes this causes major arguments, especially between the Americans and Israelis because there is a very different standard for fouls (and aggression) between our cultures. Most of my injuries have been inflicted by the Israelis we play with. During these tense moments, when tempers sometimes flare, you can tell who is there to win and who is there to have fun. I try not to call fouls that often. Unless I get hit really hard or it’s blatant and even then, it just slows down the pace of the game.

This past Friday, the weather was beautiful and it was a great day for basketball. During one of the final plays of the game, I went up for a rebound and I was called for a foul. I looked at my opponent and said, what’s the foul and he said, “Over the top!” Now over the top is foul that is usually called when two players go up for a rebound and one of the apposing players reaches over the back of their opponent to rebound the ball. It is a legitimate foul. But the call surprised everyone on the court. It was a surprise because I went up for the rebound against someone who was 6’3”. My teammate looked at Andre the Giant and said, “your calling over the top on him?” My teammate was questioning the veracity of such a call with an obvious reference to my height and the unlikely probability that I could accomplish such a feat. Now this put me in a quandary? Should I argue the call? Do I join in the chorus of, “no this is not possible.” He could never go over the top on Mr. 6’3”! I on the other hand actually thought this was a great call. I mean, this guy was huge, almost a foot taller than me. My teammates were not going to deny me this foul. This foul call was a major endorsement of my playing. Short white men can jump! So I took the call and said to my teammates, I’ll take any call that is good for my self-esteem. It was a great day for basketball. No one got hurt, and the guys who came to have fun, won the game.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Tradition, Tradition!

We watched the move, Fiddler on the Roof the other night. We don’t have a TV so we all crowded around my 17” PowerBookG4. It has a DVD player built in. I have always loved this classic. It’s been several years since the last time we watched it. This is the 1st time I think my kids have seen it. It always makes me cry and it always makes me think. I have always identified with Tevya’s struggle to hold firm to tradition. I respect his struggle to create a balance with tradition and the forces of modernity. I get aggravated with the “poetic licence” the writers use when they depicted some of the relationships that develop over the course of the story. They go way over the line. Yet, I realize there are elements of truth to each drama. I marvel at the connection that Tevya has with G-d, always feeling the ability to communicate with his Creator at any moment, about any subject, at any time.

The simplicity of their lives. How they lived with so little and how they were so happy. How they thrived in the face of adversity. How they celebrated and mourned as a community. So much of the Fiddler on the Roof and the lives of those who lived in Anatevka depict a golden time for our people. My imagination wonders what happened to them. What was their fate? What is the color of our generation?

I long for the simple life. I yearn for their strength. I yearn for their courage. I yearn.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Hilchos Football - in honor of the Big Game!!

By my creative, talented and special friend
Rabbi Elly Krimsky

A well-known yeshiva in Brooklyn has recently petitioned its rabbinic leaders to form a yeshiva football league – the yeshiva men would have the opportunity to exercise and have fun at the same time. The proposed league would only include male yeshiva students, and would include uniforms, referees and statistic keepers. Before permitting the students to participate, the Yeshiva heads, not being familiar with the American pastime, had to read the football rulebook.

The organization of Roshei Yeshiva issued a responsa permitting the league contingent upon all of their stipulations being met. It goes without saying that the league would need to unswervingly conform to halacha.

Below are excerpts from the responsa issued by the yeshiva deans which includes a Halachic analysis of many issues pertaining to football.

I. Pigskin
May a pigskin football be used? There is no prohibition of deriving benefit from a non-kosher dead animal. There is no concern with deriving benefit from pigskin. But there is a concern of deriving benefit from a mixture of kosher meat and kosher milk, and gaining benefit from chametz on Pesach. The roshei yeshiva were concerned that the pig may have eaten chametz on Pesach, and as such, its skin gained nourishment from the consumption of chametz on Pesach.

There is, however, another issue with pigskin, namely the curse associated with raising them (see Menachos 64b).

The roshei yeshiva strongly suggested that a non-pig skin ball be used.

II. Penalties
It was deemed ‘ayin hara’ for the referees to call out the numbers of those players that were charged with penalties. A compromise was reached that would give the referees one of three options.

1. They could call a holding penalty on “not 47” of the offense. This could be a bit confusing because declining a penalty would involve too many double negatives.

2. They could quote the verse from Psalms 119 (which has 176 verses) corresponding to the jersey number of the person penalized. This would work as follows: the referee would call out “Off sides, zos haysa li ki fikudecha notzarti – Defense.” The scorekeepers would know that this is verse 56 and would charge the penalty against defensive player #56. This too would be impractical. Only Sephardic judges could be used in this scenario because no Ashkenazim know all of Psalms 119 by heart. The g’dolim ruled that the entire verse must be quoted due to the concept of kol pasuk d’lo pasak Moshe Rabbeinu anan lo paskinan (Ta’anis 27b; Megillah 22a). Furthermore, it was ruled that if the verse is read in havara sepharadit, the referees would be penalized from their salary and the penalty would not count.

3. The player that receives the penalty would need to take the specially designed coins used for the toin-coss, which will double as approved coins for both pidyon haben and machtzis hashekel, and take the amount of coins that represent half of his number and present them to the judge. The idea behind this is that it takes more than one person to commit a penalty (even off sides) and no player is a whole. Furthermore, the Breslaver team insisted that the coins have a heart on it because there’s nothing as whole as a broken heart.

III. Status of Referees
Since the referees are testifying to the truth of the plays on the field, they are functioning as both dayanim and eidim. All referees need to be fully shomer shabbos and demonstrate their unswerving fear of heaven. Any ref using a crock pot on Shabbos without placing a rock or marble in between the crock and the metal to avoid the possible issue of hatmanah, and/or not wrapping the removable crock pot in tin foil as a blech, will not be allowed to serve. Any referee relying on the leniency of Rav Moshe Feinstein to make tea in a kli shlishi, not making sense before Shabbos can only become an umpire or line judge – not a full referee. All refs must have at least acquired the status of ref-ref b’hilchos football. The head ref must have completed study to become Yadin Yadin b’hilchos football. The league commissioner must need to be qualified to be podeh b'choros.

IV. Measuring for first downs
One of the rules of football is that the team on offense accomplishes a first-down once ten yards are gained in four chances (called downs). If the refs can’t tell with their naked eyes if ten yards have been gained, they bring out a chain that measures exactly ten yards; if the football is within the chain, the first down is not accomplished. The roshei yeshiva would not permit a 10 yard measuring chain because the Mishna in Eiruvin (5:4) describes a 50 cubit rope that is employed to measure eiruvei t’chumin. Since the mesorah talks of this 50 cubit rope (approximately 100 feet or 33 yards), it would be blasphemous to use a different means to measure. The roshei yeshiva declared that two 50 cubit ropes would be used – one according to Rav Chaim Na’eh and the other according to the measurements of the Chazon Ish.

V. Reviewing a play

Of late, the National Football League has allowed a video review of a play. A team can ask for a challenge. The head referee looks at the play on a video monitor from a variety of angles. If the ruling is not reversed, the team that requested the review is charged with a time-out.

The roshei yeshiva were uncomfortable with reviewing plays. What follows are some of their reasons.

1. There is a large dispute in Halachic literature regarding breirah. Loosely translated, the dispute revolves around after-the-fact retroactive decision-making. To avoid such a dispute, the rabbis ruled to avoid it.

2. The judge is to rule according to his best abilities. That is all that the Torah asks. Yiftach b’doro k’Shmuel b’doro. Since we believe that the da’as Torah of the dayanim is based upon siyata dishmaya, we must not second-guess their decisions even if they’re dead wrong.

3. Even if the judge says what is right is left and visa versa, we must abide by their ruling.

4. The league couldn’t afford video cameras.

VI. Flea-flickers and lateral plays

The Roshei Yeshiva will not permit lateral plays and flea flickers. They would only permit plays that began with the center hiking the ball to the quarterback and then the quarterback handing the ball or throwing the ball to a third player. They ruled on several Halachic grounds.

1. Giving gratitude or hakaras hatov is such a fundamental trait of the Jew. Kol Ha’omer davar b’sheim omro mevi ge’ulah l’olam. We know the center gives the ball to the quarterback, but it becomes too complicated to be makir tov if too many players are involved with a play.

2. We have a concept codified in Jewish law, “kol hamaschil mitzvah omrim lo g’mor” – whomever begins the mitzvah is encouraged to complete it (see Orach Chayim 585:4). The one who gets the ball from the quarterback should be encouraged to finish the play.

VII. Chavalah - tackling
If a player is hurt as a result of a tackle, may he ask for financial restitution? Halacha states that if someone injures his fellow he must pay up to five types of payments– damage; pain; medical costs; the money lost from one’s livelihood and embarrassment. If a player is tackled and any of these injuries apply, the refs will immediately call a timeout and convene as a besdin to ascertain the damages. They will rely on the opinion of the Tur (Choshen Mishpat 421:3) that one is only obligated to pay remuneration for pain, medical expenses and lack of livelihood if the injury was intentional. The roshei yeshiva insisted that all members of the opposite team sign waivers that were developed by their attorneys.

The Roshei Yeshiva suggested that all games, including the playoffs, should take place on Purim (Shushan Purim in Yerushalayim). They stressed that the league officials are not bound by this suggestion. Their rationale based itself on the ‘yesh omrim’ mentioned in the RAMA (Orach Chayim 695:2) that one is exempt from financial restitution if the damage took place on Purim as a result of ‘simchas Purim.’ They, of course, follow the distinction of the BACH, that this only applies to minor damage.

VIII. Bracha on Gatorade

Does the coach of the wining team need to recite a bracha before getting several gallons of Gatorade poured over his head? If the answer is yes, since we make brachos before the action, would the players need to tell him first?

Since it was deemed that the coach would probably inadvertently drink Gatorade, because it would trickle down from his soaking head, he should make a bracha before the game and a shomer would be assigned to assure that he did not go 72 minutes without taking a taste of the Gatorade. It was also ruled that all chametz must be removed from the sidelines from the 4th quarter and on, lest a situation of gebrokths create an insensitive situation for some.

For some reason or another, the yeshiva football league never took off. You know what they say. Bar mitzvah is when a Jewish boy realizes that he has a better chance of owning a professional sports franchise than playing for one.

Copyright 2003

Coincidence Continued

A few posts ago, I shared my encounter with coincidence. I would like to now tell the rest of the story. So I went to the Cemetery in Beit Shemesh for Hal Shmichels’s unveiling. It was very meaningful for Hal’s family and I am glad that it worked out for me to be there. But there is more to the story.

As I was leaving the cemetery, I stopped to wash my hands, a traditional hand washing done when leaving a cemetery. As I was washing, I noticed a familiar face. It was Rabbi Geller, the former Rabbi from Malden, MA who now lives in Baltimore, MD.

He saw me and said, “Moshe, what are you doing here?” I asked him the same question! Rabbi Geller told me that he came to Israel for Bill Rubin’s 1st yartzeit. Let me explain. Bill Rubin was a young man who lived in Malden. Bill was the backbone of Beth Israel and for many years he was in charge of their youth program. I was close with Bill for many years until sadly, he passed away last year of a brain tumor. Rabbi Geller continued, “I’m not sure if we’ll have a minyan, can you stay?” In the end, they had nine who came for the minyan, I was the 10th. A memorial prayer and the kaddish could be said.

Coincidence, maybe….but the story continues. As I was leaving the cemetery, I saw the name Bookspan on a tombstone, Rabbi Oskar Bookspan. Let me explain. When we moved to Brookline from Lowell in 1996, I wanted my son to sit next to an old man in shul. I had grown up in a shul of old men. There is something about the character of shul where the median age is between 70-80! I think that so much of my character, for better or worse has been defined because I grew up in shul with a bunch of old men. The herring, the kvetches, the GAS! Sometimes there was so much wind in shul we thought the windows were open… and there were no windows!

Anyway, moving into a more modern and younger community, this was something I wanted for my son, who was 7 at the time. There were 2 empty seats in the front left of the synagogue. 2 empty seats next to an old man, Rabbi Oscar Bookspan. We took those seats and for the next 4 years, my son was able to enjoy the character of this sweet, kind and gentle old man. He passed away in 2000 and I remember how our son cried when hearing the news. He funeral was held in Israel and we never knew where he was buried. Never knew until today.

Now I can take my son to visit his old friend. I left a few stones for Bill and Rabbi Bookspan and told them both I would return. Sometimes G-d taps you on the shoulder and sometimes he hits you over the head. Coincidence? Not a chance!

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