Friday, November 30, 2007

Alexander and Jerusalem

Tomorrow (21st Kislev) is a day of celebration in Megillas Taanis because on this day Alexander of Macedonia acknowledged the Jewish rights to Jerusalem and the Temple. The Kutim (who seem to have tried often to cause trouble for the Jews) when to Alexander (who was the equivalent of the UN in those days) and demanded to take control over the Temple.

Alexander at first granted them this control, but then miraculously changed his mind, when he saw Shimon HaTzadik. He realised how much the Jews cared about Jerusalem, and when he realised that the Temple was used to pray for the welfare of his kingdom.

May we merit to see leaders like Shimon HaTzadik, and international leaders like Alexander (and of course Jews who care about Jerusalem), speedily in our days!

כב. בעשרין וחד ביה יום הר גרזים דילא למספד
תרגום: בעשרים ואחד בו [בכסליו] יום הר גריזים
יום ששאלו הכותים את בית המקדש מאלסכנדרוס מוקדון, ואמרו לו: מכר לנו חמשה כורים ארץ בהר המוריה. נתן להם.
כשבאו, יצאו יושבי ירושלם ודחפום במקלות. והודיעו את שמעון הצדיק. לבש בגדי כהנה ונתעטף בגדי כהנה, ויקירי ירושלם עמו, ואלף בולייטין מכסין בלבנים ופרחי כהנה מקישין בכלי שרת. וכשהם מהלכים בהרים ראו אבוקות של אור.
אמר המלך: מה זה
אמרו לו המסורות הם הם יהודאין שמרדו בך
כיון שהגיעו לאנטיפטרס זרחה החמה הגיעו למשמר הראשון
אמרו להם מי אתם אמרו להם אנו אנשי ירושלם ובאנו להקביל את פני המלך.
כיון שראה אלסכנדרוס מוקדון את שמעון הצדיק ירד ממרכבתו והשתחוה לו.
אמרו לו: לזה אתה משתחוה והלא בן אדם הוא
אמר להם דיוקנו של זה אני רואה כשארד למלחמה ונוצח.
אמר לו: מה אתה מבקש.
אמר לו: בית שאנו מתפללין בו על מלכותך התעוך גוים ונתתו להם.
אמר לו: מי הטעוני
אמר לו: הן הן הכותיים שעומדים לפניך.
אמר לו: הרי הם מסורים בידכם.
נקבום בעקביהם ותלאום בזנבי סוסיהם וגררום על הקוצים ועל הברקונים, עד שהגיעו להר גריזים. כיון שהגיעו להר גריזים חרשוהו וזרעוהו כרשינין, כדרך שחשבו לעשות לבית המקדש.
יום שעשו כן עשאוהו יום טוב.

Which translates into something like this:

On the twenty first of [Kislev] is the day of Mount Gerizim, when we may not eulogise.
This is the day that the Kutim asked for the Temple from Alexander of Macedonia. They said to him, 'sell us five portions of land on Mount Moriah'.
He gave it to them.
When they came [to take posession] the inhabitants of Yerushalayim came out and pushed them away with sticks.
They told Shimon HaTzadik who came out wearing his Cohanic clothes, and wrapped himself up in the clothes of a Cohen, and all the important people of Yerushalayim came out with him with 1000 turrets covered with bricks, and the young Cohanim came out playing their musical instruments.
When [Alexander and her entourage] were coming over the hills they saw torches of light.
The king asked, 'what is this?'
His aide said to him, 'these are the Jews who rebelled against you'.
When they reached Antipatris the sun came out. When he came to the vanguard he asked them, 'who are you?'
'We are the people of Yerushalayim who have come to greet the king'
When Alexander saw Shimon HaTzadik he dismounted from his horse and bowed down to him.
His men asked him, 'you bow down to someone like this? He is just a man!'
Alexander told them, 'when I go out to battle I see his image and am victorious'
He [Alexander] said to him [Shimon HaTzadik], 'what do you want?'
He replied, 'the house where we pray for the welfare of your kingdom. Some people have misled you and you gave it to them'
He said to him, 'who misled me?'
He said, 'these Kutim who are standing before you'
He said, 'They are yours [to do with as you wish]
They pierced their heels, tied them to the tails of horses and dragged them over thorns and brambles, until they reached Mount Gerizim. When they reached Mount Gerizim they plowed it and planted vetch, which is what they [the Kutim] had planned to do to the Temple.

Shabbat Shalom

Monday, November 26, 2007

Peace talks are a game

Some people feel that video games are the correct solution to the Middle East peace problems. Not the Palestinian bombers, or the corrupt (Israeli) leadership, or even the lack of spine (and power/authority) of any of the negotiators.

A new video game will be distributed that will help solve the problem! Try to empathize with the Palestinians as they blow themselves up and kill as many innocents as possible (though you won't survive long like that apparently).

The only question is - Why didn't they just give Olmert and Livni (and Abbas) copies of the game INSTEAD of letting them go to Annapolis to discuss real life stuff. (Preferably if they could also distribute it to Hamas leaders and followers as well). I'm not exactly sure what they are referring to with this line "Israeli attacks in the West Bank and Gaza" - does that mean Baruch Goldstein, or the people of Sderot dodging missiles?

Apparently 'game theory' can solve everything!

While their leaders meet in the US to negotiate, thousands of Palestinians and Israelis will be given the chance to determine the fate of the Mideast - virtually.

The Peres Center for Peace on Sunday said it is distributing 100,000 copies of a computer game called "PeaceMaker" to Israelis and Palestinians.

The game disk will be handed out on Tuesday, the same day that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas are scheduled to meet in Annapolis, Maryland.

"PeaceMaker" players must choose whether to be a Palestinian or Israeli leader. They must cope with Palestinian suicide bombers, Israeli attacks in the West Bank and Gaza, hawkish Israeli groups, Palestinian terrorists and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Palestinian refugee camps.

As Israeli leader, it is possible to bomb Palestinian targets every time a suicide bombing occurs, and the Palestinian leader can ignore Israeli pressure to arrest militants before they attack Jewish towns. But those kinds of leaders don't last - at least in the game.

"The way is pragmatism, entering the role of the other. You must take into account the other side," said Ron Pundak, director of the Peres Center for Peace, which is distributing the game in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

A copy of the peace game will be sent to Olmert and Abbas once they return from Annapolis, Pundak said. He hoped Palestinians and Israelis, including their leaders, would try switching roles, at least for the game.

"It will help (each side) understand limitations of each one's president and leader, and as well the limitation of the other side," he said.
The games will be distributed with leading Arabic and Hebrew newspapers, although in the first round of distribution, more Israelis than Palestinians will receive the game.

The game was designed by ImpactGames, a Pittsburgh company jointly founded by two Carnegie Mellon University graduates: Asi Burak, a former Israeli army intelligence official, and Eric Brown, an American software developer.

Rebbi's Yahrzeit

Yesterday, Sunday 25th November 2007 - 15th Kislev 5768 was the Yarzheit of Rebbi Yehuda HaNassi, the Tanna and compiler of the Mishna. The Talmud at the end of Sotah tells us that:

WHEN RABBI DIED, HUMILITY AND FEAR OF SIN CEASED. R. Yosef said to the Tanna, [when reciting this Mishnah] do not include the word 'humility', because there is I. R. Nahman said to the teacher, Do not include 'fear of sin', because there is I.

(Whatever that last line means).

The Talmud near the end of Ketubot (p. 103b-104a) describes the end of Rebbi's life, and his instructions to his children and students:

Our Rabbis taught: When Rabbi was about to depart [from this life] he said, 'I require [the presence] of my sons'. When his sons entered into his presence he instructed them: 'Take care that you show due respect to your mother. The light shall continue to burn in its usual place, the table shall be laid in its usual place [and my] bed shall be spread in its usual place. Yosef of Haifa and Shimon of Efrat who attended on me in my lifetime shall attend on me when I am dead'.
'Take care that you show due respect to your mother'. Is [not this instruction] from the Torah, since it is written, “Honour your father and your mother?” — She was their stepmother. [Is not the commandment to honour] a stepmother also from the Torah, for it was taught: “Honour your father and your mother,” “your father” includes your stepmother,”and your mother” includes your Stepfather, and the superfluous vav includes your elder brother? — This exposition [was meant to apply] during [one's own parents'] lifetime but not after [their] death.
'The light shall continue to burn in its usual place, the table shall be laid in its usual place [and my] bed shall be spread in its usual place'. What is the reason? — He used to come home again at twilight every Sabbath Eve. On a certain Erev Shabbos a neighbour came to the door speaking aloud, when his handmaid whispered, 'Be quiet for Rebbi is sitting there'. As soon as he heard this he came no more, in order that no bad reflection might be cast on the earlier tzadikim.
'Yosef of Haifa and Shimon of Efrat who attended on me in my lifetime shall attend on me when I am dead'. He was understood to mean, 'In this world'. When it was seen however, that their biers preceded his (i.e. they died before Rebbi) [all] said that the conclusion must be that he was referring to the other world, and that the reason why he mentioned it was that it might not be suspected that they were guilty of some offence and that it was only the merit of Rebbi that protected them until that moment.
'I require', he said to them, '[the presence] of the Sages of Israel', and the Sages of Israel entered into his presence. 'Do not eulogise me', he said to them, 'in the smaller towns, and reassemble the yeshiva after thirty days. My son Shimon is wise, my son Gamliel shall be Nasi and Chanina ben Chama shall preside [at the yeshiva].
'Do not eulogise me in the smaller towns'. He was understood to give this instruction in order [to cause less] trouble. As it was observed, however, that when eulogies were held in the large towns everybody came, they came to the conclusion that his instruction was due to [a desire to enhance] the honour [of the people].
'Reassemble the yeshiva after thirty days', because [he thought] 'I am not more important than our teacher Moses concerning whom it is Written in Scripture, And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moav thirty days'.
For thirty days they mourned both day and night; subsequently they mourned in the day-time and studied at night or mourned at night and studied during the day, until a period of twelve months of mourning [had passed].
On the day that Rebbi died a bas kol went forth and announced: Whoever was present at the death of Rebbi is destined to enjoy the life of the world to come. A certain tailor, who used to come to him every day, failed to call on that day; and, as soon as he heard this, went up upon a roof, fell down to the ground and died. A bas kol came forth and announced: That fuller also is destined to enjoy the life of the world to come.
'My son Shimon is wise’. What did he mean? — It is this that he meant: Although my son Shimon is wise, my son Gamliel shall be the Nasi. Said Levi, 'Was It necessary to state this?' — It was necessary', replied R. Shimon ben Rebbi, 'for yourself and for your lameness'. What was his difficulty? Does not Scripture state, But the kingdom gave he to Yehoram, because he was the firstborn? — The other was properly representing his ancestors but R. Gamliel was not properly representing his ancestors. Then why did Rebbi act in the manner he did? — Granted that he was not representing his ancestors In wisdom he was worthily representing them in his fear of sin.
'Chanina ben Chama shall preside at the college'. R. Chanina, however, did not accept [the office] because R. Afes was by two and a half years older than he; and so R. Afes presided. R. Chanina sat [at his studies] outside [the lecture room], and Levi came and joined him. When R. Afes went to his eternal rest and R. Chanina took up the presidency Levi had no one to join him and came in consequence to Babylon.

It was taught: Rebbi was lying [on his sickbed] at Tzippori but a [burial] place was reserved for him at Beis She'arim.
Was it not, however, taught: Justice, justice shalt thou follow. follow Rebbi to Beis She'arim? — Rebbi was [indeed] living at Beis She'arim but when he fell ill he was brought to Tzippori because it was situated on higher ground and its air was salubrious.
On the day when Rebbi died the Rabbis decreed a public fast and offered prayers for heavenly mercy. They announced that whoever said that Rebbi was dead would be stabbed with a sword.
Rebbi's handmaid ascended the roof and prayed: 'the immortals desire Rebbi [to join them] and the mortals desire Rebbi [to remain with them]; may it be the will [of God] that the mortals may overpower the immortals'. When, however, she saw how often he needed the bathroom, painfully taking off his tefillin and putting them on again, she prayed: 'May it be the will [of the Almighty] that the immortals may overpower the mortals'. As the Rabbis incessantly continued their prayers for [heavenly] mercy she took up a jar and threw it down from the roof to the ground. [For a moment] they ceased praying and the soul of Rebbi departed to its eternal rest.
'Go', said the Rabbis to Bar Kappara, 'and investigate'. He went and, finding that [Rebbi] was dead, he tore his cloak and turned the tear backwards. [On returning to the Rabbis] he began: 'The angels and the mortals have taken hold of the Holy Ark. The angels overpowered the mortals and the Holy Ark has been captured'. 'Has he', they asked him, 'gone to his eternal rest?' — 'You said it; I did not say it'.
Rebbi, at the time of his passing, raised his ten fingers towards heaven and said: 'Sovereign of the Universe, it is revealed and known to you that I have laboured in the study of the Torah with my ten fingers and that I did not enjoy [any worldly] benefits even with my little finger. May it be Your will that there be peace in my resting place'. A bas kol echoed, announcing, He shall enter into peace; they shall rest on their beds.

May His Soul Be Bound in the Bonds of Eternal Life

also posted on

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Should we go to Iran?

The latest news from Iran (no, I don't mean the nuclear reactor, or the hanging of homosexuals or the 'honour killings' of women who are raped) is that Moshe Aryeh Freidman has gone back for another visit. In case you don't remember, he was part of a group of Neturei Karta (who have since been expelled from that organisation) who went to Iran for a conference denying the holocaust. He has been more outspoken than any of the others (all of whom have since 'apologised' - whatever that means), and has spoken on Iran TV, and a university lecture tour denying the holocaust. (More specifically, he admits there was a holocaust, but based on his 'research' says that 'only' 1,000,000 Jews were killed, not 6,000,000!)

his wife has left him

Moshe Aryeh Friedman, a senior Neturei Karta member, who passionately kissed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will now be forced to look for a woman who will agree to kiss him, as his wife has decided to leave him following his participation in the Holocaust denial conference which took place in Tehran about a month ago.

He got kicked out of a hotel in New York in which he and his family were staying (presumably that is before she left him)

Moshe Aryeh Friedman, a member of the Natorei Karta, who attended the Holocaust denial conference in Teheran last month, was asked to leave a hotel in Brooklyn over the weekend, where he was staying with his wife and four children. It was the latest in a string of protests against the anti-Zionist sect.

and his kids were expelled from school

The children of an Austrian rabbi who attended an Iranian conference that questioned the Holocaust have been expelled from their school and told no other Jewish school in Austria will take them, their father said Tuesday.

Moishe Arye Friedman said he has begun legal proceedings against the school. He said his four school-age children were told to leave Monday.

Friedman showed a letter with school letterhead that explained that one of the reasons for the expulsions was his "outrageous behavior" in attending the Holocaust conference last month .

and beaten up

Before coming to Iran, Rabbi Friedman’s children were attacked by Zionist elements in Austria and Britain in retaliation for the fact that the rabbi had attended the Tehran Holocaust Conference in December 2006.

His children required hospitalization after the attacks.

I must add that given the lies he has told publicly it is entirely possible that all of these 'facts' are fabricated. He claims that it was all the work of the Mossad (paranoia?), so perhaps it is all in his mind. But all in all, not a guy you would want to spend time with (what does Ahmadinejad see in him?)

Anyway, his most recent trip (and discussion with a few people) left me thinking about one issue. According to Ynet news:

According to Ynet, Moshe Friedman has once again been caught on camera embracing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Friedman and a few other cronies received world-wide fame last year, when they attended the holocaust denial conference. This time, holocaust-denier-Friedman is currently in Tehran where he is scheduled to appear on Iranian TV “to unequivocally clarify the different between Zionism and Judaism.”

Friedman reportedly met up with his long time pal this past Motzei Shabbos - dressed in his Shabbos attire - and Friedman delivered a message of peace for Jews and Muslims.

Ahmadinejad said he shared Friedman vision about a day “when Jerusalem is free from Zionism, and Muslims and Jews will pray together.”

I'm not quite sure how he managed to fly from Austria to Iran and arrive on a Motzei Shabbat (and from the looks of the photo it is daylight as well). I suspect that he put his Shabbos clothes on specially to greet Ahmadinejad. My question is, given that he is absolutely wrong on everything else he has and is doing, is he right to wear Shabbos clothes and Streimel for his kissing invitation to the Supreme Ruler?

The Talmud in Brachos (9b) says:

For R. Yochanan said: A man should always be eager to run to see the kings of Israel. And not only to see the kings of Israel, but also to see the kings of the Gentiles, so that, if he is found worthy, he may be able to distinguish between the kings of Israel and the kings of the Gentiles.

I'm not exactly sure who qualifies as a 'King' and who doesn't, but it seems to me that Ahmadinejadis one of the most powerful people in the world. He certainly has the authority to sentence people to death, and as we speak is attempting to destroy another country (Israel).

Perhaps we should all put on our Shabbos clothes and go to see Ahmadinejad, to fulfil the statement of the Talmud (just not grovel, or deny the holocaust, or support the Iranian stance vis a vis Israel)

What do you think?

(also posted on

Top Ten Excuses for Missing Shul

These are the Top Ten Excuses for Missing Shul on Shabbos Morning. Please use them with discretion.

Excuse Number 10: The Dog ate my Shabbos Shoes

Excuse Number 9: The Cholent overpowered me and wouldn't let me leave the house

Excuse Number 8: I was meditating on a higher plane and lost track of existence

Excuse Number 7: It wasn't Shabbos in Australia

Excuse Number 6: I was kidnapped and taken to the college football, and I only just escaped (and walked back on foot)

Excuse Number 5: Aliens landed on my front lawn and demanded that I take them to my leader, so I spent Shabbos with the Rebbe

Excuse Number 4: I davened at the earlier minyan (use with caution - sometimes this excuse is not believed)

Excuse Number 3: I've become an Amshenover Chasid and it is only Tuesday for me

Excuse Number 2: The Farbrengen went on too late last night after the Tisch

And Excuse Number 1: I was so engrossed in my daf yomi that I lost track of time

(In case you missed the Tisch and the Aliens - here it is)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Megillas Antiochus (Megillat Antiochus if you prefer) is the Scroll of Antiochus, an ancient text which records the battles of the Chashmonaim (Hasmoneans) against the Yavanim (Greeks). Rav Sadiah Gaon claims to have traced Megillas Antiochus back to the time of Hillel and Shammai (which is about 100 years after the Chasmonaim and Antiochus), although he believes it was actually composed by the Hasmoneans themselves.

We all know the story of Antiochus who was the Selucid king and who sent his general Bagris to try and conquer Jerusalem. Unlike previous (and later) conquerors, the Selucid Greeks did not try to destroy the Beis Hamikdash, but instead turned it into a Temple to their gods.

The Scroll of Antiochus gives one of the oldest chronicles of the decrees and battles of the Greeks and the Chashmonaim. Originally this Megillah was written in Aramaic, but was later translated into Hebrew.

It appears in many siddurim, and is read in some communities as part of the Chanukah service (similarly to the reading of Megillat Esther on Purim)

Torahlab has published this document in Hebrew with a brand new annotated English translation.

Megillas Antiochus is now available as a free pdf download from

click here to download

Please feel free to link to this page on your blog or website using this graphic.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Oh! Nuts - 10% discount!

When it comes to Chanukah I really am a Grinch. There are so many things I don't like about the holiday, that it makes me rather grumpy.

First there is all that messing about with oil and lights and trying to find the safest and halachicly best place to put the menorah (and the stress of keeping the kids away from it until it has stopped burning).

Then there are the sufganiyot! The only thing worse than a jelly donut is a jelly donut with a green plastic bag baked inside, which I once managed to purchase in the Shuk! They look and taste so yummy, yet they are so so wrong!

Then the day just seems to disappear. In Israel most things stop half way through the day so everyone can go home to light. Learning, working, doing errands - all put on hold while lighting takes place. And after that (and after the candles have burned out) it is too dark and there have been too many donuts, and nothing else can happen.

And the dreidel game, which nobody really understands, yet the kids manage to fight over anyway. (and now you can get dreidels which not only cause fights, but also play music while they are doing it!)

And finally there are presents. Who invented presents for Chanukah? (At least we don't have the man in the big red suit - or Eliyahu HaNavi as we like to call him). And so much junk food and so many hyper kids and ... and... and...

I know, it is a religious festival, and the lights of Chanukah are supposed to keep us burning through the darkness of exile, etc. etc. (and don't forget the message that all secular learning and knoweldge and music is 'Greek' and we have to destroy it - nothing to do with Chanukah, but usually included in every d'var torah).

Anyway, this year, something exciting. The people at Oh! Nuts have put together some wonderful Chanukah packages, to help you survive the eight long days. You don't have to go out to brave the crowds to keep your kids (and friends, and neighbours' kids and their friends) entertained - all you do is go to their website and stock up with chocolate and nuts, and even the 'color a cookie dreidel'. They have enough chocolate money for a Rockerfeller (or should that be Rothschild) and tons of special Chanukah gift ideas and packages. And of course everything is under kosher supervision.

You can even send a gift to a friend without leaving your computer!

And best of all, they are offering readers of this blog a 10% discount on all purchases!

So, go visit Oh! Nuts and tell them you know me, and you want your discount please. Alternatively, Use this code HBP1118 for your 10% discount.

Enjoy. I feel better (and less Grinch-like) already. Ahh, chocolate!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Best Chanukah Album of All Time

Just in Time for Chanukah - The Best Chanukah Album of All Time has just been released.

Featuring such classic songs as:

Sevivon, Stomp, Stomp, Stomp.

I had a little dreidel (Oh when will you come back to me)

The Maoz Tzur Rock

Candles in the Night - (Frank Shin (Nun, Gimmel Heh) - atra)

The Ballad of Latkes and Oil

Candlelight Rock

Maccabee, 1, 2, 3

Antiochus Won't Destroy Us

Chanukah Gelt in the Moonlight

I want to Eat Some Latkes - W.A.S.P. (We Ate Some Pancakes)

'Peh' I hear You Calling (But I've Still Got 'Shin' Right Now) - K.I.S.S. (Kiss Is Shomer Shabbos)

Vayetze - the lighter side

I received this from AH, and with his permission am posting it here. I don't really understand it fully, so please don't ask me any kashyas from Rashi or Gemarahs.

But do leave feedback if you find it enhances your understanding of the Torah portion.

There is nothing that is not hinted to in the Torah. Please excuse any irreverance.

In reviewing the Parsha this year, I was struck by the many similarities between Yaacov Avinu and (LeHavdil) Mario of Super Mario Bros:

1. The obvious: Mario always wears a hat.
2. Both leave home and brother to strange lands in search of a wife.
3. Once he leaves, the place he left all but ceases to exist (Of course, the rest of his family is still there).
4. Yaacov and Mario do not die even after failing to dodge the first enemy (Elifaz). He loses everything but keeps on going.
5. They find a way to switch to another world and regain strength and reserves by filling up on Gold coins/ Torah. They emerge and continue on their way. No sleeping.
6. Yaacov gets to Charan but realizes that he somehow missed Har Hamoria (the stone with the mushroom). He goes back and ends up depending on bricks for protection from predators.
7. After eliminating the many stones and resting on the proper one, Yaacov/ Mario encounters a ladder going upwards. There are other worldly creatures ascending and decending.
8. Yaacov becomes invincible (Starman) and continues on his way. He does not attain fireball power.
9. Arriving at the well, Yaacov encounters others and single handedly performs superhuman feats. Mario attributes this strength to the Mushroom. Yaacov to Hashem.
10. Mario rescues Princess Peach from the evil clutches of King Bowser, king of the Koopas.

Friday, November 16, 2007

7th Kislev - King Herod

In Megillat Taanit is says that tomorrow (7th Kislev) is a holiday, because it is the day that King Herod died. Here is the Hebrew text (from Daat):

כא. בשבעה ביה יום טב
תרגום: בשבעה בו [בכסליו] יום טוב
יום שמת הרודוס מפני שהיה הורדוס שונא את החכמים. ששמחה היא לפני המקום כשהרשעים מסתלקין מן העולם. שנאמר וגם יד ה' היתה בם להומם, וכתיב ויהי כאשר תמו כל אנשי המלחמה למות מקרב העם וכתיב וידבר ה' אלי לאמר. וכן הוא אומר: איש טוב זה ואל בשורה טובה יבא. ואומר ויצו המלך את בניהו בן יהוידע ויפגע בו וימיתהו וגומר.
ואותו היום שמת הרודוס עשאוהו יום טוב.

Which translates as:
On the seventh of Kislev is a festival, the day that Herod died, because Herod hated the Sage. There is happiness before G-d when the wicked pass from this world, as the verse states, "Also the hand of G-d was upon them to destroy them..." and it states, "when all the people from the battle had died from the midst of their people", and then it says "And G-d spoke to me saying...". It also states, "This is a good man, and he should have good tidings", and it says "The king (David) commanded Beniyahu ben Yehoyada and he attacked him and killed him..."
The day that Herod died was made into a festival.

The truth is that according to Wikipedia, Herod died in March or April:

The scholarly consensus, based on Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews is that Herod died at the end of March, or early April, 4 BC. Josephus wrote that Herod died 37 years after being named as King by the Romans, and 34 years after the death of Antigonus.[10] This would imply that he died in 4 BC. This is confirmed by the fact that his three sons, between whom his kingdom was divided, dated their rule from 4 BC. For instance, he states that Herod Philip I's death took place, after a 37-year reign, in the 20th year of Tiberius, which would imply that he took over on Herod's death in 4 BC.[11] In addition, Josephus wrote that Herod died after a lunar eclipse,[12] and a partial eclipse[13] took place in 4 BC.

Because of apparent inconsistencies in the method Josephus counted years, it has sometimes been suggested that 5 BC might be a more likely date[14] - there were two total eclipses in that year.[15][16]. The next lunar eclipse did not take place until 1 BC, however, and Herod's sons had already been ruling for three years by then.

Josephus wrote that Herod's final illness was excruciating (Ant. 17.6.5). From Josephus' descriptions, some medical experts propose that Herod had chronic kidney disease complicated by Fournier's gangrene.[17] Modern scholars agree he suffered throughout his lifetime from depression and paranoia. (

This is what Josephus (Antiquities) writes about Herod's last days and his death:



1. AS he was giving these commands to his relations, there came letters from his ambassadors, who had been sent to Rome unto Caesar, which, when they were read, their purport was this: That Acme was slain by Caesar, out of his indignation at what hand, she had in Antipater's wicked practices; and that as to Antipater himself, Caesar left it to Herod to act as became a father and a king, and either to banish him, or to take away his life, which he pleased. When Herod heard this, he was some-what better, out of the pleasure he had from the contents of the letters, and was elevated at the death of Acme, and at the power that was given him over his son; but as his pains were become very great, he was now ready to faint for want of somewhat to eat; so he called for an apple and a knife; for it was his custom formerly to pare the apple himself, and soon afterwards to cut it, and eat it. When he had got the knife, he looked about, and had a mind to stab himself with it; and he had done it, had not his first cousin, Achiabus, prevented him, and held his hand, and cried out loudly. Whereupon a woeful lamentation echoed through the palace, and a great tumult was made, as if the king were dead. Upon which Antipater, who verily believed his father was deceased, grew bold in his discourse, as hoping to be immediately and entirely released from his bonds, and to take the kingdom into his hands without any more ado; so he discoursed with the jailer about letting him go, and in that case promised him great things, both now and hereafter, as if that were the only thing now in question. But the jailer did not only refuse to do what Antipater would have him, but informed the king of his intentions, and how many solicitations he had had from him [of that nature]. Hereupon Herod, who had formerly no affection nor good-will towards his son to restrain him, when he heard what the jailer said, he cried out, and beat his head, although he was at death's door, and raised himself upon his elbow, and sent for some of his guards, and commanded them to kill Antipater without tiny further delay, and to do it presently, and to bury him in an ignoble manner at Hyrcania.



1. AND now Herod altered his testament upon the alteration of his mind; for he appointed Antipas, to whom he had before left the kingdom, to be tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, and granted the kingdom to Archclaus. He also gave Gaulonitis, and Trachonitis, and Paneas to Philip, who was his son, but own brother to Archclaus (10) by the name of a tetrarchy; and bequeathed Jarnnia, and Ashdod, and Phasaelis to Salome his sister, with five hundred thousand [drachmae] of silver that was coined. He also made provision for all the rest of his kindred, by giving them sums of money and annual revenues, and so left them all in a wealthy condition. He bequeathed also to Caesar ten millions [of drachmae] of coined money, besides both vessels of gold and silver, and garments exceeding costly, to Julia, Caesar's wife; and to certain others, five millions. When he had done these things, he died, the fifth day after he had caused Antipater to be slain; having reigned, since he had procured Antigonus to be slain, thirty-four years; but since he had been declared king by the Romans, thirty-seven. (11) A man he was of great barbarity towards all men equally, and a slave to his passion; but above the consideration of what was right; yet was he favored by fortune as much as any man ever was, for from a private man he became a king; and though he were encompassed with ten thousand dangers, he got clear of them all, and continued his life till a very old age. But then, as to the affairs of his family and children, in which indeed, according to his own opinion, he was also very fortunate, because he was able to conquer his enemies, yet, in my opinion, he was herein very unfortunate.

2. But then Salome and Alexas, before the king's death was made known, dismissed those that were shut up in the hippodrome, and told them that the king ordered them to go away to their own lands, and take care of their own affairs, which was esteemed by the nation a great benefit. And now the king's death was made public, when Salome and Alexas gathered the soldiery together in the amphitheater at Jericho; and the first thing they did was, they read Herod's letter, written to the soldiery, thanking them for their fidelity and good-will to him, and exhorting them to afford his son Archelaus, whom he had appointed for their king, like fidelity and good-will. After which Ptolemy, who had the king's seal intrusted to him, read the king's testament, which was to be of force no otherwise than as it should stand when Caesar had inspected it; so there was presently an acclamation made to Archelaus, as king; and the soldiers came by bands, and their commanders with them, and promised the same good-will to him, and readiness to serve him, which they had exhibited to Herod; and they prayed God to be assistant to him.

3. After this was over, they prepared for his funeral, it being Archelaus's care that the procession to his father's sepulcher should be very sumptuous. Accordingly, he brought out all his ornaments to adorn the pomp of the funeral. The body was carried upon a golden bier, embroidered with very precious stones of great variety, and it was covered over with purple, as well as the body itself; he had a diadem upon his head, and above it a crown of gold: he also had a scepter in his right hand. About the bier were his sons and his numerous relations; next to these was the soldiery, distinguished according to their several countries and denominations; and they were put into the following order: First of all went his guards, then the band of Thracians, and after them the Germans; and next the band of Galatians, every one in their habiliments of war; and behind these marched the whole army in the same manner as they used to go out to war, and as they used to be put in array by their muster-masters and centurions; these were followed by five hundred of his domestics carrying spices. So they went eight furlongs (12) to Herodium; for there by his own command he was to be buried. And thus did Herod end his life.

4. Now Archelaus paid him so much respect, as to continue his mourning till the seventh day; for so many days are appointed for it by the law of our fathers. And when he had given a treat to the multitude, and left off his motoring, he went up into the temple; he had also acclamations and praises given him, which way soever he went, every one striving with the rest who should appear to use the loudest acclamations. So he ascended a high elevation made for him, and took his seat, in a throne made of gold, and spake kindly to the multitude, and declared with what joy he received their acclamations, and the marks of the good-will they showed to him; and returned them thanks that they did not remember the injuries his father had done them to his disadvantage; and promised them he would endeavor not to be behindhand with them in rewarding their alacrity in his service, after a suitable manner; but that he should abstain at present from the name of king, and that he should have the honor of that dignity, if Caesar should confirm and settle that testament which his father had made; and that it was on this account, that when the army would have put the diadem on him at Jericho, he would not accept of that honor, which is usually so much desired, because it was not yet evident that he who was to be principally concerned in bestowing it would give it him; although, by his acceptance of the government, he should not want the ability of rewarding their kindness to him and that it should be his endeavor, as to all things wherein they were concerned, to prove in every respect better than his father. Whereupon the multitude, as it is usual with them, supposed that the first days of those that enter upon such governments declare the intentions of those that accept them; and so by how much Archelaus spake the more gently and civilly to them, by so much did they more highly commend him, and made application to him for the grant of what they desired. Some made a clamor that he would ease them of some of their annual payments; but others desired him to release those that were put into prison by Herod, who were many, and had been put there at several times; others of them required that he would take away those taxes which had been severely laid upon what was publicly sold and bought. So Archelaus contradicted them in nothing, since he pretended to do all things so as to get the good-will of the multitude to him, as looking upon that good-will to be a great step towards his preservation of the government. Hereupon he went and offered sacrifice to God, and then betook himself to feast with his friends.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

4th Kislev - Final Prophecy

Today, fourth of Kislev, is the anniversary of the last time that G-d spoke directly to a prophet. Rashi on Yoma 21b (with the glosses in the margin) explains that the Shechina and Ruach HaKodesh didn't rest on prophets from the fourth year of Darius's reign.

Even though Malachi is listed as the last prophet in the Tanach, Zechariah's prophecy spanned his prophecy and continued afterward.

It is not clear why prophecy stopped (although there are many theories - for example the Vilna Gaon links it to the visit of Alexander the Great to Jerusalem, others link it to the Anshei K'nesses removing the yetzer hara for idolatry), or even whether it has ceased (Rambam seems to imply that there could be prophecy today, although there isn't for some reason).

This text is beautiful - especially as the final direct word from G-d to His poeple. Even though it is at the time of the building of the Second Temple there is already a promise of the future exile and redemption. And wherever we are in the world, G-d cares about us and will bring us back to Israel.

7:1 It happened in the fourth year of king Darius that the word of the LORD came to Zechariah in the fourth day of the ninth month, the month of Kislev. 7:2 The people of Bet-el sent Sharezer and Regem Melech, and their men, to entreat the L-rd’s favor, 7:3 and to speak to the Cohanim of the house of the L-rd of Hosts, and to the prophets, saying, “Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years?”

7:4 Then the word of the L-rd of Hosts came to me, saying, 7:5 “Speak to all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and in the seventh month for these seventy years, did you at all fast to me, really to me? 7:6 When you eat, and when you drink, don’t you eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves? 7:7 Aren’t these the words which the L-rd proclaimed by the former prophets, when Yerushalayim was inhabited and in prosperity, and its cities around her, and the South and the lowland were inhabited?’”

7:8 The word of the L-rd came to Zechariah, saying, 7:9 “Thus has the L-rd of Hosts spoken, saying, ‘Execute true judgment, and show kindness and compassion every man to his brother. 7:10 Don’t oppress the widow, nor the fatherless, the foreigner, nor the poor; and let none of you devise evil against his brother in your heart.’ 7:11 But they refused to listen, and turned their backs, and stopped their ears, that they might not hear. 7:12 Yes, they made their hearts as hard as flint, lest they might hear the law, and the words which the L-rd of Hosts had sent by his Spirit by the former prophets. Therefore great wrath came from the L-rd of Hosts. 7:13 It has come to pass that, as he called, and they refused to listen, so they will call, and I will not listen,” said the L-rd of Hosts; 7:14 “but I will scatter them with a whirlwind among all the nations which they have not known. Thus the land was desolate after them, so that no man passed through nor returned: for they made the pleasant land desolate.”

8:1 The word of the L-rd of Hosts came to me. 8:2 Thus says the L-rd of Hosts: “I am jealous for Tzion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath.”

8:3 Thus says the L-rd: “I have returned to Tzion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Yerushalayim shall be called ‘The City of Truth;’ and the mountain of the L-rd of Hosts, ‘The Holy Mountain.’”

8:4 Thus says the L-rd of Hosts: “Old men and old women will again dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, every man with his staff in his hand for very age. 8:5 The streets of the city will be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.”

8:6 Thus says the L-rd of Hosts: “If it is marvelous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in those days, should it also be marvelous in my eyes?” says the L-rd of Hosts.

8:7 Thus says the L-rd of Hosts: “Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; 8:8 and I will bring them, and they will dwell in the midst of Yerushalayim; and they will be my people, and I will be their G-d, in truth and in righteousness.”

8:9 Thus says the L-rd of Hosts: “Let your hands be strong, you who hear in these days these words from the mouth of the prophets who were in the day that the foundation of the house of the L-rd of Hosts was laid, even the temple, that it might be built. 8:10 For before those days there was no wages for man, nor any wages for an animal; neither was there any peace to him who went out or came in, because of the adversary. For I set all men everyone against his neighbor. 8:11 But now I will not be to the remnant of this people as in the former days,” says the L-rd of Hosts. 8:12 “For the seed of peace and the vine will yield its fruit, and the ground will give its increase, and the heavens will give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to inherit all these things. 8:13 It shall come to pass that, as you were a curse among the nations, house of Yehudah and house of Israel, so will I save you, and you shall be a blessing. Don’t be afraid. Let your hands be strong.”

8:14 For thus says the L-rd of Hosts: “As I thought to do evil to you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath,” says the L-rd of Hosts, “and I didn’t repent; 8:15 so again have I thought in these days to do good to Yerushalayim and to the house of Yehudah. Don’t be afraid. 8:16 These are the things that you shall do: speak every man the truth with his neighbor. Execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates, 8:17 and let none of you devise evil in your hearts against his neighbor, and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate,” says the L-rd.

8:18 The word of the L-rd of Hosts came to me. 8:19 Thus says the L-rd of Hosts: “The fasts of the fourth fifth, seventh, and tenth months shall be for the house of Yehudah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts. Therefore love truth and peace.”

8:20 Thus says the L-rd of Hosts: “Many peoples, and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come; 8:21 and the inhabitants of one shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go speedily to entreat the favor of the L-rd, and to seek the L-rd of Hosts. I will go also.’ 8:22 Yes, many peoples and strong nations will come to seek the L-rd of Hosts in Jerusalem, and to entreat the favor of the L-rd.” 8:23 Thus says the L-rd of Hosts: “In those days, ten men will take hold, out of all the languages of the nations, they will take hold of the skirt of him who is a Jew, saying, ‘We will go with you, for we have heard that G-d is with you.’”

After this, according to the Gemara in Bava Basra (14b), prophecy superseded by the 'wisdom' of the Sages and scholars. What prophecy remained was given to the children and the fools!

Cross posted from

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Top Ten Biblical Names

... That you probably won't name your kids:

In alphabetical order this time:

Number 1 Artaxerxes: Ezra 7:13-28.

Number 2 Merodach-baladan: Isaiah 39: 1

Number 3 Chedorlaomer: Bereishis 14

Number 4 Chushan-Rishathaim Shoftim 3: 8

Number 5 Gomer: HOshea 1: 3

Number 6 Hadadrimmon Zechariah 12: 11

Number 7 Ham: Bereishis 5: 32

Number 8 Ishbi-benob: Shmuel 2 21: 16

Number 9 Jeconiah: Divrei Hayamim 2 36: 9

Number 10 Maher-shalal-hash-baz: Isaiah 8: 1– 3


Number 11 Nun: Divre Hayamim 1 7: 26-7

Number 12 Rabmag: Yirmiyahu 39: 3,13

This is only part 1 of the list. There are so many great names in the Bible that are underused nowadays. Please feel free to add your own favourites. Keep watching for 'Top Ten Biblical Names that you probably won't name your kids' part 2. Coming soon

Monday, November 12, 2007

Payos 'product'

I was at the mikva this morning, and I saw this sitting in the 'lost and found'

Kerastase Bain Oleo-Curl
Shiny, supple and nourishing shampoo for dry, curly and rebellious hair.
Nourishes and softens the hair fiber for manageable hair and perfectly defined curls.

Who would have left something like that in the men's mikva? There aren't any female hair models there (usually). Then I realised - it is 'product' for Payos.

Don't think it is easy to get those curls in the flowing payos. Hours are spent each day, twisting, curling and fixing them to get that 'delicate, yet serious' look.

It is also good for that 'just washed' look, which can help you to avoid actually washing your hair (or your body) for weeks at a time.

I can see it now - a new range of product designed for the fashion conscious payos wearer - 'Gerrer Gel', 'Breslav Bounce' and 'Chasidic Curl', gels, moisturisers, conditioners, why the list is endless. And of course everything will come packaged in Haredi Black (inside a paper bag so the wife doesn't see it).

So, if you are going for the 'really frum' chasidic look, you know which is the product of choice.

And be warned. This is what could happen if you don't use these products!

(from chaptzem)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

'Till 120!

There isn't anything to add to this story. It is just truly wonderful. Till One Hundred and Twenty! Long may you continue Buster!

(from the BBC)

A man has turned up for work despite being told to take the day off for his 100th birthday.

Buster Martin began cleaning vans for Pimlico Plumbers despite retiring as a market worker three years ago.

Colleagues at the firm in Lambeth, south London, threw him a surprise party and were treating him to a tour of Chelsea FC's Stamford Bridge ground.

Mr Martin said the last time he had a party he was in the desert "getting as drunk as a Lord when I was 21".

He said the secret of his longevity could be due to a pint of bitter every day and daily press ups.

The centenarian was born in France, but came to England as a baby and grew up in an orphanage in Cornwall until 1916.

Moving to London he got his first job helping stall holders on Brixton market before joining the Army at 15 and served a total of 35 years before joining the Navy.

After taking up a wide range of trades, he finally went full circle and was working at Brixton market until he retired aged 97.

Mr Martin, who married in 1920 and had 17 children with his wife, said he took up working again because he became bored.

"Working keeps me active, that's the main thing. If you're active it saves you sitting in a wheelchair," he said.

Talking about how the world had changed in 100 years he said: "It's a bit too fast... I've never owned a telephone and I never will."

Charlie Mullins, of Pimlico Plumbers, said: "Buster's a lot of fun, he's quite a character who's got a million stories."

Top Ten Things NOT To Do During the Rabbi's Sermon


(cross posted from

Number 10: Read a book

Number 9: Pretend to be reading a book

Number 8: Read a banned book

Number 7: Fall asleep

Number 6: Fall asleep and snore loudly

Number 5: play 'Sermon Cricket' (see below)

Number 4: give a running commentary on 'Sermon Cricket' to the person next to you

Number 3: give a running commentary on 'Sermon Cricket' to the person across the room from you

Number 2: Give a live update on the current cricket test score

and the Number 1 thing not to do when the Rabbi is giving the sermon: answer your cell phone to get the latest cricket test score, after leaving it ringing loudly for quite a while first!

'Sermon Cricket'

'Sermon Cricket' is a game almost as old as cricket itself. It is loosely based on the traditional laws of cricket (though without the batsmen, balls, bowlers or wickets).

Certain phrases, such as 'parsha', 'sedra', 'torah' score a single. 'Rashi', 'Ramban' or any other Rishon is worth two runs. 'Hell', 'Heaven' or any synonym is a four. And if the Rabbi mentions 'G-d' that is a whopping great SIX.

Wickets and some runs are taken by the Rabbi's hand gestures - pointed finger being run out and a sorrowful shake of his head a turning down of a certain LBW appeal.

One Rabbi prone to a wagging digit as he rammed home his points got the entire visiting Australian side out for a virtual 9 runs!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Money for Blogging

... and your chicks for free.

People have asked me whether it is possible to make any money from blogging, and the easy answer is, for this kind of blog, probably not very much! But that also means, probably a little bit.

Google adsense is the obvious answer for most people. However, the downside of adsense is that they don't pay you until you have earned over $100 (they carry the balance forward from month to month until you reach that total). In a year of blogging I still haven't reached that amount (though I am close). I know of people who make that much every month, though, so it very much depends on how many read your blog and who they are (and what ads you get given). The main thing to watch with adsense is whether you approve of the ads on your blog, and you can remove the ones you don't like with the competitive ad filter.

(for some reason I can't get this to display on my blog (and I've spent well over an hour on it and I'm too tired now). If you want to help me out and yourself a the same time, click on the link on the side bar about google adsense (you may have to scroll down a little bit).

A site that has paid me enough to cover my costs (which are not great) is pay per post. You can choose what to write about, and you earn between $5 and $10 (theoretically up to several hundred dollars) per post. So a couple of months and hey presto, you can buy some bubblegum. They pay straight to paypal, and so far I've found them to be good at paying.

Of course, another way to make money is to refer people to these two schemes above, so if you are interested, please click through this blog, and help me at the same time.

If you are still using Internet Explorer, I highly recommend that you switch to firefox. Not only will this earn me a referral fee, but it is so much better that IE (in my opinion), and quicker, and more fun, that it bothers me when I see others still in the dark ages. (there is also a cool addon which shows you how much money you have made with your google adsense, so you can combine two things into one). For the record it is also supposed to be safer than IE, with less hackers trying to put bugs in it.

(same as above - click on the link on the side bar)

I have tried all sorts of other schemes, but haven't found them to be all that good for me. Amazon has eaned me a tiny bit, but since they don't pay until you reach a certain total (I don't remember how much) I haven't yet got anything from them. Selling products, or links to other websites hasn't done anything for me, nor has auction ads nor reverse links. But of course your blog is different, so you should experiment.

The main thing in all of this is to get hits. Without viewers you won't make any money. There are many people who will tell you how to get more hits, but the latest thing I am trying is the social bookmarking thing at the bottom of each blog. I took the main html code from vbstock
and my wife Alit fixed it up the html afterwards. Try this (hopefully it will work for you).

Go to your template and click on edit html. Click 'expand widgets'. Select all text and copy it to notepad (to make a backup in case you mess things up, though you probably won't). Fine the line that says this:

<p class="post-footer-line post-footer-line-3">

and replace it with this:

</p><p class="post-footer-line post-footer-line-3"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><p></p><blockquote><div>
<p class="post-footer-line post-footer-line-3">
<span class="bookmark">
<table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="0" width="100%">
<td style="vertical-align: top;" valign="top">
<div id="&quot;sbtxt&quot;">Bookmark this post:</div><p>

<script type="text/javascript">showsbtext(&quot;sbtxt&quot; + &quot;<>&quot;,0)</script>

<a href=";title=%22%20+%20data:post.title" onmouseout="'" onmouseover="'" target="_blank"><img alt="Ma.gnolia" src="" border="0" /></a>
<a href=";url=%22%20+%20data:post.url" onmouseout="'" onmouseover="'" target="_blank"><img alt="DiggIt!" src="" /></a> <a href=";title=%22%20+%20data:post.title" onmouseout="'" onmouseover="'" target="_blank"><img alt="" src="" /></a> <a href=";Description=&amp;Url=%22%20+%20data:post.url%20+%20%22&amp;Title=%22%20+%20data:post.title" onmouseout="'" onmouseover="'" target="_blank"><img alt="Blinklist" src="" /></a> <a href=";=%22%20+%20data:post.title" onmouseout="'" onmouseover="'" target="_blank"><img alt="Yahoo" src="" /></a> <a href=";t=%22%20+%20data:post.title" onmouseout="'" onmouseover="'" target="_blank"><img alt="Furl" src="" /></a> <a href="" onmouseout="'" onmouseover="'" target="_blank"><img alt="Technorati" src="" /></a> <a href=";title=%22%20+%20data:post.title" onmouseout="'" onmouseover="'" target="_blank"><img alt="Simpy" src="" /></a> <a href=";title=%22%20+%20%20data:post.title" onmouseout="'" onmouseover="'" target="_blank"><img alt="Spurl" src="" /></a> <a href=";title=%22%20+%20data:post.title" onmouseout="'" onmouseover="'" target="_blank"><img alt="Reddit" src="" /></a> <a href=";bkmk=%22%20+%20data:post.url%20+%20%20%22&amp;title=%22+data:post.title" onmouseout="'" onmouseover="'" target="_blank"><img alt="Google" src="" /></a>


(I have a feeling that this hasn't worked either. You can e-mail me directly if you want the code. That will hopefully work better)

Hopefully you will have a little list of bookmarking sites at the bottom of every blog entry.

Good luck. and thanks for clicking on those links for me.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Yarzheit - Rabbeinu Yonah

Today (27th Cheshvan) is the Yarzheit of my favourite Rishon (at the moment), Rabbeinu Yonah. His words are all classics of Jewish thought, and his commentary on Pirkei Avos is essential reading for every Jew (according to R' Wolbe in Alei Shur).

As you know, I have just translated this commentary into English, and you can get a copy either by e-mailing me, or from Amazon, or from the publisher - (If you order it from me I'll even sign it for you if you want).

Also from torahlab you can see a couple of pages from the book as a sample. This is Rabbeinu Yonah's commentary on one Mishna

Here is a biography of Rabbienu Yonah written by Rabbi Yaacov Haber, taken from the book.


Rabbi Yaacov Haber

“There were many great Torah authors and many styles of mussar[1]. Not every author can speak to every soul; there are after all so many different types of souls. The exception to this is Rabbeinu Yonah Girondi (and specifically his book on teshuvah[2]). His writings are appropriate to every Jew in every time. (Rabbi Chaim of Velozhin as quoted by the Chofetz Chaim[3])

Rabbeinu Yonah came from Girona, in Catalonia. He was a grandson and student of the Ramban[4] (Nachmanides), and the teacher of the Rashba[5]. He was also considered the most prominent pupil of Rabbi Shlomoh Min HaHor[6] who was the leader of the opponents of Rambams'[7] philosophical works. As such, he was one of the signers of the infamous ban proclaimed against the Moreh Nevuchim and the Sefer HaMadda in 1233. According to his pupil, Hillel of Verona[8], Rabbeinu Yonah felt that these editions were philosophically dangerous to the masses and was the instigator of the public burning of Maimonides' writings by the church in 1233.[9]

Nine years later, in 1242, twenty-four wagon-loads of the Talmud were burned by the church at the very same place where the philosophical writings of Rambam had been destroyed. Rabbeinu Yonah, realized that he made a mistake and publicly admitted in the synagogue of Montpellier that he had been wrong in all his acts against the works and fame of Maimonides.

In his repentance he vowed to travel to Eretz Yisroel and prostrate himself on the grave of the Rambam and implore his pardon in the presence of ten men for seven consecutive days. He left France with that intention, but was detained, first in Barcelona and later in Toledo. He remained in Toledo, and became one of the great Talmudical teachers of his time.

In all his lectures and in his writings he made a point of quoting from Rambam; always mentioning his name with great reverence. Rabbeinu Yonah’s sudden death from a rare disease was considered by many as a consequence of failure to fulfil his vow to journey to the grave of Rambam. He died in Toledo, Spain in November of 1263.

It is surmised that Rabbeinu Yonah wrote a number of works to atone for his earlier attacks on Rambam and to emphasize his repentance. His Iggeres HaTeshuvah, Shaare Teshuvah, and Sefer HaYirah are among the most popular ethical treatises in the Judaic library. The Shaare Teshuvah first appeared in Fano (1505) with the Sefer HaYirah, while the Iggeres HaTeshuvah was first published in Cracow (1586). All have been reprinted many times, separately and together, as well as numerous extracts from them. Rabbeinu Yonah actually wrote many more treatises which were compiled together and published as Shaarei Tzedek; unfortunately most of these writings have been lost.

The great Gaon Rebbe Akiva Eiger[10] commented that he enjoyed studying the mussar works of Rabbeinu Yonah because aside from being a great ethicist, Rabbeinu Yonah was one of the greatest Talmudic scholars of all time as well as a authority on Jewish law. He is mentioned several times in the commentary of the Tosafos[11] on the Talmud, referred to there as Rabbi Yonah.

[1] ethical reproof and guidance.

[2] repentance; ref. to Shaarei Teshuva

[3] Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan of Radin,( Poland, 1838-1933)

[4] Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, also known as Nachmanides ( Spain, 1194-1270)

[5] Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet, (Spain,1235-1310)

[6] Rabbi Shlomo of Montpellier in Provence (12th century)

[7] Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, also known as Maimonides (Egypt, 1135-1204)

[8] Hillel ben Solomon of Verona (Italy, 1220-1295)

[9] Pope Gregory IX believed the problem of heresy needed serious attention and was not content with leaving it to the bishops, who might have been negligent, but extended Papal control in this fundamental area as well. In 1231, he established the Papal Inquisition to deal with it. As part of their response, they instigated the burning of controversial works, often after public debate, including the writings of Rambam, the Talmud and the commentaries of the Tosafos.

[10] Posen (1761-1837)

[11] Thirteenth century commentators on the Talmud the leaders of whom were the grandchildren of Rashi

May His Soul Be Bound in the Bonds of Eternal Life

Teshuva for Disengagement?

There are at least three components to true repentance; regret about the past, to stop sinning in the present, and to resolve never to do it again in the future.

I wonder to what extent Ben Eliezer's statements here represent the national feeling. Perhaps Israel is beginning to do teshuva for the enormous damage and harm that was (and is being) done to thousands of innocent people (who lived in Gush Katif, Sederot or anywhere nearby).

Of course, real teshuva would also involve helping those who were thrown out of their homes and are still homeless/ unemployed etc. It would also mean protecting those who are currently being bombed from Gaza. But at least a verbal confession is a beginning.

The real question is whether this will lead to changed policies from the government for the future, and whether it will save us from Annapolis.

Since the only thing we can do is teshuva, let us hope that G-d will help the people of Israel to do the right thing.

The disengagement from Gaza "was a mistake" National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer told Non-Stop Radio (Radio Lelo Hafsaka) on Thursday.

"I admit and confess," Ben Eliezer said, "I was with those who strongly supported [former prime minister] Ariel Sharon, and today I say with my head held high: We erred, we made a very big mistake."

According to Ben Eliezer, a move such as the Gaza pullout can only be successful when the territory one leaves is "handed over to responsible hands and anchored in agreements and international guarantees. Here we have a precedent - a territory we left turns into a base for terror - period."

Regarding the ongoing Kassam rocket fire at Israel from the Gaza Strip, Ben Eliezer said there is no escaping the need to act and to respond to the barrages.

When asked about potential harm to the Palestinian population in Gaza that would likely result from an Israeli military response, the Infrastructure Minister said attempts to prevent harm to civilians are futile in light of the current situation.

"Israel must respond, what else?"

Ben Eliezer continued: "Israel continues to say 'I bind myself to ethical obligations,' that no other country in the world binds itself to.

"There is a contradiction here between two disciplines," he said. "One nation is prepared to commit suicide and sees it as a mitzvah and an honor, and another wants to spare every ounce of blood."

Ben Eliezer's comments came Thursday morning as three Kassam rockets landed in Israeli territory. Two of the rockets landed in open fields near the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon - one near a strategic installation. No one was wounded and there was no damage to property.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Top Ten Words that sound as though they are Yiddish but Aren't

Top Ten Words That Sound as though they are Yiddish, but Aren't:

Number 10 - Farfetched

Number 9 - Invocation

Number 8 - Flummoxed

Number 7 - Gobsmacked

Number 6 - Innersprung

Number 5 - Gerund

Number 4 - Forefinger

Number 3 - Henpecked

Number 2 - Scooped

AND the Number 1 Word That Sounds as though it is Yiddish, but Isn't is... - Gazumped

What would you add??

Emergency Campaign to Save Jerusalem

I'm posting this to show my solidarity with yidwithlid, Jerusalem and the The United Coalition for Jerusalem.

I believe that to show the world, ourselves and G-d how many people care about Jerusalem and don't want it destroyed, will be a kiddush Hashem, and will help us focus in our prayers and efforts to get closer to G-d.

HOWEVER, I also believe that G-d is in control. To believe for a moment that Olmert has any kind of authority or power, is to deny that "G-d's eyes are there from the beginning of the year until the end of the year". If G-d is threatening to take Israel away from the Jews, it is not because of Olmert, Barak, Peres or anyone else, but because of us and our actions. The best actions we can take to support Jerusalem are teshuva, prayer, tzedaka (and of course coming here to visit, live etc.).

To quote the Mishna at the end of Sotah: When the world goes crazy and everything is the opposite of what it should be - "Who can we rely on? On our Father in Heaven"

Here is the post. It comes with the following warning: Don't mistake a website or a donation or a political group for G-d.

Emergency Campaign to Save Israel !

“If I Forget Thee O Jerusalem”

By capitulating to foreign interests and to the tiny but powerful anti-Zionist Left in Israel, the government is shattering the social contract that is the source of its right to govern. By violating the foundational principles and norms of the Jewish State, this government has delegitimized itself.

At the “Munich Conference” in Annapolis, the prime minister intends:

-To establish an Arab terrorist state to be called Palestine;

-To divide Jerusalem and give the Temple Mount to the Muslims;

-To cede all of Judea and Samaria;

-To give the enemy control of the mountain ridge overlooking “little Israel,” placing all the large population centers within range of Katusha rockets;

-To expel hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes and to destroy their communities.


This is not an “Israeli” issue; it is a Jewish issue.
Jerusalem is the birthright of every Jew.

Jerusalem was the capital of the Jewish People for 3,000 years.

By their failure to assert Jewish rights in our city and our holy sites, Israeli governments have set the stage for the ongoing destruction of our 3000 year old heritage. This government has forsaken the State of Israel’s duty to protect our Jewish birthright. If successful, they will sever the Jewish People’s ties to their history, land, and heritage. They will, in effect, deny the very basis of the right of a Jewish State to exist in the Land of Israel.

To divide Jerusalem is to commit national suicide.

To thwart this threat, we have established a coalition dedicated to saving Jerusalem and the Eretz Israel, the United Coalition for Jerusalem, encompassing organizations and groups in countries all over the world. Uniting us is the belief in the centrality of Jerusalem for Jews and Christians alike.

The Israeli wing of the coalition is composed of a long and growing list of extra-parliamentary organizations, Members of Knesset, military leaders, activists, media personalities and, of course, religious leaders. The hallmark of this effort is our inclusiveness. The members come from a wide spectrum of Israeli society: any group or individual opposed to the division of Jerusalem is invited to join.

Short Terms Goals:

To isolate Olmert and his government, and to expose the fact that they are acting against the will of the people and without their support.

To send out a clear and resounding message to the world that Jerusalem belongs to the Jews, now and forever.

To make it clear to Olmert that his government will fall if he proceeds as planned.

Stage One: Building a coalition of supporters.

We aim to build as broad a coalition as possible. Everyone who opposes the abandonment of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount is welcome.

Stage Two: Gathering supporters.

We envision the active participation of representatives from a wide spectrum of Israeli society, the Jewish world, and Evangelical Christians in conveying the campaign’s message.

The different organizations will operate under the United Coalition for Jerusalem, but will undertake the tasks that they do best. Lobbying the Knesset and Congress, mobilizing Evangelical Christian support, education and public relations in Israel and among world Jewry, and obtaining international support are of utmost importance.

The minimum required budget will be $1 million and will include dozens of pinpoint campaigns.

Stage Three: Arousing public outrage against the government.

“If I Forget Thee O Jerusalem…” is a non-sectarian, inclusive campaign.

Given a Knesset whose prime motivation is to cling to their seats, our immediate goal is to threaten the stability of the government coalition by arousing a level of public anger and unrest that can’t be ignored. This shall be achieved by worldwide pressure on PM Olmert and his government.

We will organize a massive demonstrations in Israel and in the USA as a show of strength demonstrating a readiness to do whatever it takes to defend Jerusalem.
Our activities will intensify, moving into non-violent civil disobedience, until the government backs down.

This national disaster, which will place Israel’s continued existence in jeopardy, is being orchestrated by a self-serving and corrupt political clique bent on trading the nation’s most sacred and vital interests for a reprieve from their legal problems.

We, therefore, declare that:

We do not recognize the government’s right to cede the Land of the Bible and to blithely discard the Jewish People’s unique heritage of thousands of years. Nor do we recognize its attempt to reverse the Biblical prophecies of return to Zion that were fulfilled in our era at such tremendous human cost.

We do not recognize the right of the government to tear our land into pieces, to destroy cities, towns, and communities, to make hundreds of thousands of Jews into homeless refugees and to steal their property, as was done to the loyal citizens of Gush Katif.

We do not recognize the authority of the government to use the state as a tool to deny our right to the Land of Zion and to nullify the Zionism that built the state on the strength of 2,000 years of Jewish yearning for Zion.

We do not recognize the government’s right to give our homeland to a fake people to establish a fake state.

When a government becomes a cancer, destroying all that it is charged with protecting, the people must cease obeying its suicidal decrees and oppose the destruction.

The Jewish People in Israel and throughout the world will not be bound by the criminal concessions made by this government: it severs any and all connection with its immoral acts.

The Jewish People in Israel and abroad will do whatever it takes to save the nation and land of Israel from its degenerate leaders.

We truly believe that the tremendous power embodied in shivat tzion, the return of the Jewish people to their homeland, is dormant but not dead. A tremendous battle lies ahead, but

“Let us ascend and we shall gain possession of it, for we can surely do it!” (Numbers 13; 30)

We can’t do this alone. We Need Your Help! -


Make checks out to the Central Fund of Israel, Re: L’Eretz Yisrael HaShleima.

Mail checks to:

Central Fund of Israel.
c/o Marcus Brothers Textiles
980 6th Ave
New York NY 10018
Tax ID number: 13-2992985
Telephone numbers:
US: Jeff (212)519-0207
Israel: Jay Marcus: 054-699 8155
Tsafrir Ronen - (Israel coordinator) - 972-52-235 8440

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Minister of Defense

Or perhaps more precisely - Minister of Defending his own political future.

Ehud Barak stopped the military from carrying out a security operation against terrorists because it won't look good when Israel goes to Annapolis for peace talks.

Clearly the terrorists building the bombs and planning the attacks on civilians are in favour of peace. Were Israel to try and defend herself by removing the threats that would be counter to the 'peace' plan.

I think the Minister of Defense should rename himself 'Minister of Sitting on the Fence - and looking out for his political future, even at the expense of the defense of the State of Israel'

A military operation planned in the Balata refugee camp in Nablus was called off by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Ynet has learned.

The operation is believed to have been cancelled in light of the Palestinian Authority's security forces taking control of the West Bank city, the upcoming US-sponsored peace conference and Israel's desire to prevent disagreements which may lead to grave results on the backdrop of Barak's frequent meetings with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visits to the region.

The planned operation was to include a large amount of forces, including reserve forces, and was aimed at locating terror activists and weapons.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Beilin 'Jewish'

After much soul searching and political pressure, Israel has decided not to cut off electricity to Gaza in response to kassam attacks. Yet again Israel's attempt to thwart the peace process didn't work (Or as the BBC would say 'Attacks won't get in the way of the peace process).

The idea of supplying the enemy with electricity to power their bomb factories reminds me of a piece from Tomer Devorah, which I hope to blog about tomorrow (if I am awake enough).

Another interesting quote from Yossi Beilin, who claims that cutting off the electricity would have been "un-Jewish". From the Jerusalem Post

In response, Meretz Chairman Yossi Beilin claimed that cutting off electricity and fuel was not the best way to halt rocket attacks from the Strip.

"Former prime minister Ariel Sharon's biggest mistake was to allow Hamas participation in the Palestinian elections. We must arrive - via indirect means - at a cease-fire agreement with Hamas," he said. "They approached us, but we weren't interested."

"Cutting off electricity and water is an inhuman and un-Jewish act," he added.

So, Mr Beilin, this is called 'un-Jewish' huh? Well, I went online to see what Mr Beilin does consider to be Jewish.

(which is important to know, since Jewish education is one of his top priorities. Every Jew a chance to learn about their Jewish heritage:

... Another question is what causes should we dedicate Jewish resources to? I think that we should dedicate them to Jewish education and to visits of young Jews to Israel. Without Jewish education and with no Jewish culture, there will be no Jewish people, neither religious nor secular. Our roots and history are what unite us, Jews who are not familiar with their roots, will not stay Jewish

Of course intermarriage is an important part of his Judaism (not to mention other issurei biah)

As Minister of Justice, Yossi Beilin prepared a bill for a Domestic Partnership ("Couplehood") Registration. According to the bill, every man and woman who wishes so, may register as a couple. This status will serve as an alternative to religious marriage, yet without amounting to a civil marriage. In particular, it will enable groups who are at present prevented from getting married according to religious law enforced in Israel, to be recognized as a couple. These groups include: Mamzerim, Agunot, Inter-Religious Marriage.

Secular conversion? (After all, why should religion be decided only by those religious people!)

Another question is what causes should we dedicate Jewish resources to? I think that we should dedicate them to Jewish education and to visits of young Jews to Israel. Without Jewish education and with no Jewish culture, there will be no Jewish people, neither religious nor secular. Our roots and history are what unite us, Jews who are not familiar with their roots, will not stay Jewish

or to put it another way, Judaism is really like a country club:

We must give these people, those who wish to be identified as Jews, the right to join the Jewish people on the basis of their own self-definition. I envision a situation where a non-Jew - who does not claim membership in another religion - turns to the local Jewish community and asks to be registered as a community member. The community would ask for references from two Jewish community members, as is customary upon joining certain movements or clubs.

Cremation - another 'Jewish' idea for Beilin

Yossi Beilin, head of the liberal Meretz party revealed yesterday his body is to be cremated, as requested in his will.

He accused Shas of "driving Israel towards dark days in which citizens will not even be allowed to choose what happens to their corpses when they die."

So, to summarise, stopping the missiles and protecting Israeli citizens is "un-Jewish". But intermarriage, secular conversion and cremation are all 'Jewish' (at least in his 'country club' version of the term'). In that case I'm going to have to start adding a new bracha in the morning, thanking G-d for not making me 'Jewish' according to Beilin.

I suppose the only good thing that can be said about him is at least he isn't a member of Neturei Karta.

All quotes from Beilins' website: except for the last one which is from the Scotsman newspaper

Internet Filth

(Alternative Title - Jewish Prostitution).

The internet is full of all sorts of rubbish that you wouldn't want your kids (or your mother) to see. These are two clips are MUCH worse than (almost) anything you can imagine (I know what you are thinking TS. Stop it!)

These guys claim to represent 'Torah True Judaism'. What they mean, of course, is 'Wierd Sicko Puppies'!

These two video clips carry a Sedley health warning. Don't watch them if you have just eaten or are feeling nauseus already.

Hugs and kisses = PORNOGRAPHY!

This next clip can only be watched on MEMRI's website

Here is a transcript if you can't stomach the video.

Moshe Aryeh Friedman: The existence of the Zionist regime is based upon the belief that they have to destroy the belief in God throughout the world. Another one of their goals is to destroy the other peoples, both physically and economically.
Every believer throughout the world should fight Zionism. Whoever cooperates with Zionism in any way is, in fact, opposing his own religion. Whoever believes in Islam and wants to support the Zionist regime in any way, rather than to be hostile to it, is, in fact, casting doubt upon the sincerity of his belief.
We have a great problem. By fabricating lies about the Holocaust, global Zionism has succeeded in distorting historical truth in its favor.
Throughout this period, in which Hollywood succeeded in influencing global public opinion and creating the myth of the Holocaust, which they interpreted to their advantage, the Islamic Republic of Iran was steadfast, and exerted efforts in the struggle against the global myth of the Holocaust, to the benefit of all the peoples of the world. We are very grateful for this. May God protect you. We are grateful for your support.
In order to accomplish their goals, the Zionists had to create a global disaster – such as the threats, pressure, and oppression that the Jews suffered. They needed to use this in order to establish Herzl’s philosophy. It was the Zionists who drove the Third Reich in Germany to publicly use pressure and oppression against the Jews. It should be pointed out that it was the Zionists who promoted this policy, and who led Germany down that path. In those days, there was no such thing as the Islamic Republic of Iran, and nor was there anything like the Iranian broadcasting authority, which could have enabled us to expose the truth.
When I returned from the Tehran Holocaust conference, the Zionist regime carried out many acts of terrorism against my family.
When my children entered their school, the Mossad forces attacked my four, small, innocent children and beat them up.
The Zionist regime will come to an end sooner than most people think. Let me say again that the Iranian people will establish justice and freedom worldwide, for the benefit of all humanity and all the religions in the world. We are indebted to the Iranian people, and I request that they continue on this path so that the Zionist regime will stop this oppression. In my opinion, the Zionist regime will come to an end sooner than we imagine, and I think that we all can hope and pray that these disasters and acts of oppression will end soon, as the English phrase goes, “sooner rather than later.”