Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sefira Reminder

Don't forget to

(ve-hameivin yavin)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Korban Pesach

One of the advantages (?) of President Obama's visit to Israel is that according to Arutz Sheva:

The annual korban Pesach service will take place in a different location following a court petition. In previous years the ancient Jewish tradition was performed at the Tayelet promenade in Jerusalem overlooking the Temple Mount area. However this year the Veterinary Authority denied permission. Groups wishing to partake of the tradition filed a petition with the Jerusalem District Court in protest. It will now take place nearby in the Nof Zion neighborhood. Nof Zion is one of the newest neighborhoods in Jerusalem and is located on the southside.

The event will be attended by Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and others. The ancient korban Pesach is described in the Torah and discussed every Passover in the Hagadah.

The Korban Pesach is the Passover sacrifice. Every year they do a demonstration sacrifice on the 10th of Nisan, so that people (even vegetarians) remember what the sacrifice will look like when the Temple is rebuilt (though when the Temple is rebuilt the sacrifice takes place on Erev Pesach).

I'm not sure what time the demonstration will happen, but I guess I'll just listen out for the bleating (or the arrival of all the Rabbis).

(I just found that according to this Hebrew website it will be at 3:30 pm.

See you there. Next year in Jerusalem.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Formula 1 in Jerusalem

Nir Barkat and the Jerusalem City Council keep coming up with new things. Now they are bringing Formula One to Jerusalem.

I have no idea how those cars can make the turn at the Haan Theatre. I guess I'll have to go there to watch and find out for myself (but I won't stand too close to that turn, because I imagine the cars will be spinning of there).

Monday, March 18, 2013

Rav Kav Update

I must say that I'm very impressed. The people from CityPass phoned me just now (Monday - I left them a query last Thursday, so that is quite quick).

They confirmed and clarified that the "maavar/transfer" DOES still work from bus to train and back again within 90 minutes (provided that the RavKav ticket is code 62 - you have to check that they sell you the right ticket if you buy it on the bus).

On the other hand, she admitted that sometimes the machine does take extra clips by mistake. If someone thinks that the machine has taken an extra clip by mistake they must go to the tachana merkazit (central [bus] station) and go to the RavKav stand there and they will investigate. If it was indeed in error they will refund the clip (though I'm not sure whether they refund on the spot or whether they send a refund voucher at some later date).

I would be glad to hear from someone who has tried doing that to see how long such a procedure takes (though to be honest, probably just the time it would take me to go to the tachana merkazit and get through security would make it not worth my while for the sake of 6.60 shekel).

I asked her if some policy had changed on 1st February, as the ticket inspector had told me. She said that she was not aware of any change.

So, apologies to RavKav and CityPass for thinking they had changed their policy (though I was told so by one of their employees). Well done for getting back to me so quickly. On the other hand, the machine DOES make mistakes, and getting a refund involves taking a trip to the tachana merkazit.

Caveat Viator.
Last week was Albert Einstein's birthday. He was a very smart man. One of the interesting things that I saw posted in honour of his birthday was
this letter that he wrote regarding scientists and religion

The Riverside Church

January 19, 1936

My dear Dr. Einstein,

We have brought up the question: Do scientists pray? in our Sunday school class. It began by asking whether we could believe in both science and religion. We are writing to scientists and other important men, to try and have our own question answered.

We will feel greatly honored if you will answer our question: Do scientists pray, and what do they pray for?

We are in the sixth grade, Miss Ellis's class.

Respectfully yours,



January 24, 1936

Dear Phyllis,

I will attempt to reply to your question as simply as I can. Here is my answer:

Scientists believe that every occurrence, including the affairs of human beings, is due to the laws of nature. Therefore a scientist cannot be inclined to believe that the course of events can be influenced by prayer, that is, by a supernaturally manifested wish.

However, we must concede that our actual knowledge of these forces is imperfect, so that in the end the belief in the existence of a final, ultimate spirit rests on a kind of faith. Such belief remains widespread even with the current achievements in science.

But also, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is surely quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.

With cordial greetings,

your A. Einstein

Even though we clearly do not decide matters of hashkafa based on Einstein, I think he makes a very valid point, which is often forgotten. Someone who approaches Judaism (or probably any religion) in a more rational, scientific way, will have a very different concept of G-d than someone who approaches in a more traditionalist way. I think that each approach has its advantages and disadvantages, and I think that either can be supported by views in Rishonim (though of course, none of the Rishonim knew Einstein's special theory of relativity).

Someone who believes in G-d through tradition and with a temimut (Einstein calls it naivety) will probably have a more personal relationship with G-d, and possibly see the 'hand of G-d' more directly in their life (though not necessarily). However, their conception of G-d will be parochial and limited.

A person who bases their relationship and belief on science will have a much grander, bigger, view of G-d. Their sense of awe and wonder will be enhanced at the beauty and splenour of creation. But it is harder to feel a direct personal connection to such an awesome G-d. All of the Biblical miracles (and certainly the stories of hashgacha pratit) seem petty when compared to the awesome miracle of a single cell, or the wonders of the universe.

I would not suggest that one approach is better or more 'Jewish' than the other. However, I do think that a firm adherent of one approach will have a very difficult time trying to understand someone who holds the other approach. To each other one seems almost an atheist, while the other seems almost an idolator.

Thank you Albert, and happy birthday.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

New Zealand - Godzone Chosen Land

Jeremy Clarkson (of "Top Gear" fame) has dubbed New Zealand the real "Holy Land" in his column for the Sunday Times

If you were God and you were all-powerful, you wouldn’t select Bethlehem as a suitable birthplace for your only child, because it’s a horrible place. And you certainly wouldn’t let him grow up anywhere in the Holy Land. What you’d actually do is choose New Zealand.

New Zealand causes anyone to question the wisdom of God. Because if he really were all-knowing, children at Christmas time today would be singing “O little town of Wellington” and people would not cease from mental fight until Jerusalem had been built in Auckland’s green and pleasant land. Jesus would have been from Palmerston

The whole article is subscription only, so I can't post it, but I am happy to agree with Jeremy (for once). New Zealand is a wonderful place, and a fantastic place to be born.

I wish him much luck in persuading the world's Christians and Muslims to move to New Zealand and leave Israel alone for the poor old Jews who haven't yet seen the light.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Practical Difficulties of Being an Editor

Sometimes it is hard to separate between life and work. Especially when work consists of sitting in front of a computer all day editing and translating. Then family time starts. And the following is just one example of what can happen.

WIFE (to son): Don't let me EVER catch you lying to me again!

ME: Does he need your permission for that?

WIFE: OK, what I meant was that I don't want to ever catch you lying to me again!

ME: So the real problem here was that you caught him?

WIFE: Don't EVER lie to me again!

ME: He can lie to everyone else?


ME: (What about writing or tweeting or singing lies?)

WIFE (to me): Just be quiet already!!!!!! You KNOW what I mean!

Whoops. Methinks it is time to turn off the mental "auto-correct" button.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Think Twice Before Using the Jerusalem Light Railway

Public Service announcement for those who take the light railway in Jerusalem.



I found out today that CitiPass, the company that runs the trains, no longer honours the transfers from the Egged busses. When the train was proposed, built and became operational, the rational was that the busses would feed into the train line, which would run through the center of the city. To this end, Egged have rerouted many of their busses, so that there are now fewer busses that cross the city, and many more which run to the train and back again.
Initially the same ticket was used on both the bus and the train. One could take as many busses or trains within 90 minutes, which should allow most people to reach their destination. Egged stopped using cardboard bus tickets, and instead switched to the RavKav card, which is swiped on the bus and on the train. Until the end of January 2013 a trip on both bus and train would cost a single 'clip' on the card. Since the beginning of February (and as far as I know without any advertising or notification) someone who uses both train and bus will be charged twice (though on the same card, and if one does not pay attention it is very easy to not even notice). In other words, not only have the train operators made the train separate from the bus (thereby removing the justification for the train system) but they also did so without telling anyone, so that they have 'stolen' many thousands of shekels from people who think that they may use the train at no extra charge.
It took me and my kids (who use the busses and train almost every day) over a month to realize we are being ripped off (because we are fortunate in that we have the choice of bus or train – train is quicker, but we won't be using it now, because it is not so much quicker that we would want to pay twice for the privilege).
I have now looked on their website, but cannot find any information regarding this change. Perhaps they advertised it somewhere else, but not in any of the media which I look at.
If you use the Jerusalem transport system, think twice before using a combination of train and bus. Use either one (and as many busses as you wish) but be aware that if you use both you will be charged twice.
And if there are any lawyers or activists out there who can somehow hold CitiPass accountable for this deceipt/theft, please do everything you can to bring them to justice.
Thank you

Sunday, March 10, 2013

learning from a non-existent verse

Those of you who are learning daf yomi will have learnt (or be about to learn) the first daf of Eruvin today. On this daf, the gemara tries to find a source for the maximum height and width of a hechsher mavoi. At one point the gemara tries to learn from a verse, which Tosefot point out does not exist. Here is the Gemara (Eruvin 2a):

והכא היינו טעמא דרבי יהודה דכתיב אל פתח אולם הבית ורבנן אי הוה כתב אל פתח אולם כדקאמרת השתא דכתיב אל פתח אולם הבית הבית הפתוח לאולם

If you prefer I might say: According to R. Judah's view also the sanctity of the Hekal is distinct from that of the Ulam, but the reason for R. Judah's ruling here is because it is written: To the entrance of the Ulam of the house. And the
Rabbis? If it has been written: ‘To the entrance of the Ulam’ [the implication would indeed have been] as you suggested; now, however, that the text reads,I ‘To the entrance of the Ulam of the house’, [the meaning is the entrance of] the house that opens into the Ulam. But is not this text written in connection with the Tabernacle?

Tosefot write:

דכתיב אל פתח אולם הבית. זה הפסוק אינו בשום מקום ואור"י דמצינו דכתיב (יחזקאל מ) אולם הבית ובקרא אחרינא (שם מז) כתיב פתח הבית והוי כאלו נכתב בהדיא בחד קרא פתח אולם הבית וקאמרי רבנן אי כתב פתח אולם כדקאמרת פי' שלא היה כתוב בשום מקום אולם הבית:

"To the entrance of the Ulam of the house": This verse does not appear in any place. Rabbeinu Yitzchak says that we find that the verse states, "The Ulam of hte house" (Yechezkel 40) and in another verse it states, "Entrance of the house" (ibid. 47). The Gemara treats them as if they were written together in a single verse "The entrance the Ulam of the hosue." The Rabbis answer that if it would have said, "Entranceof the Ulam" it would be as you suggested. Meaning, since it does not state "Entrance of the Ulam" in any place.

If you look in Mahartz Chajes he points to another Tosefot later in the masechta (65a). Rashi suggests that another non-existent verse may in fact be from sefer Ben Sira (which is one of the books of the apocrypha, and according to Rabbi Akiva one loses one's Olam HaBa by reading it)! Tosefot then lists several other places where the Talmud cites verses from Ben Sira as if they are verses in Tanach.

בצר אל יורה. פירש בקונטרס בדקתי אחר מקרא זה ואינו בכל הכתובים ושמא בספר בן סירא הוא ומצינו בכמה מקומות שמביא הש"ס מקראות הכתובים בספר בן סירא

Rashi says that he has searched for this verse, but has not found it anywhere in Tanach. Perhaps it is from Sefer Ben Sira. We find many places that the Gemara cites verses written in Ben Sira.

Look at Tosefot there for other places where the Gemara quotes from Ben Sira as if it was quoting verse from Tanach.

(This post is partly a response to DovBear who claims that people never discuss what they have learnt in Daf Yomi. Well I'm discussing it now.)