Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Computer worm expected to come to life Wednesday in 3 million PCs

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — The fast-moving Conficker computer worm, a scourge of the Internet that has infected at least 3 million PCs, is set to spring to life in a new way on Wednesday - April Fools' Day.

That's when many of the poisoned machines will get more aggressive about "phoning home" to the worm's creators over the Internet. When that happens, the bad guys behind the worm will be able to trigger the program to send spam, spread more infections, clog networks with traffic, or try and bring down Web sites.

Technically, this could cause havoc, from massive network outages to the creation of a cyberweapon of mass destruction that attacks government computers. But researchers who have been tracking Conficker say the date will probably come and go quietly.

More likely, these researchers say, the programming change that goes into effect April 1 is partly symbolic - an April Fools' Day tweaking of Conficker's pursuers, who for now have been able to prevent the worm from doing significant damage.

"I don't think there will be a cataclysmic network event," said Richard Wang, manager of the U.S. research division of security firm Sophos PLC. "It doesn't make sense for the guys behind Conficker to cause a major network problem, because if they're breaking parts of the Internet they can't make any money."

Previous Internet threats were designed to cause haphazard destruction. In 2003 a worm known as Slammer saturated the Internet's data pipelines with so much traffic it crippled corporate and government systems, including ATM networks and 911 centers.

Far more often now, Internet threats are designed to ring up profits. Control of infected PCs is valuable on the black market, since the machines can be rented out, from one group of bad guys to another, and act as a kind of illicit supercomputer, sending spam, scanning Web sites for security holes, or participating in network attacks.

The army of Conficker-infected machines, known as a "botnet," could be one of the greatest cybercrime tools ever assembled. Conficker's authors just need to figure out a way to reliably communicate with it.

Infected PCs need commands to come alive. They get those commands by connecting to Web sites controlled by the bad guys. Even legitimate sites can be co-opted for this purpose, if hackers break in and use the sites' servers to send out malicious commands.

So far, Conficker-infected machines have been trying to connect each day to 250 Internet domains - the spots on the Internet where Web sites are parked. The bad guys need to get just one of those sites under their control to send their commands to the botnet. (The name Conficker comes from rearranging letters in the name of one of the original sites the worm was connecting to.)

Conficker has been a victim of its success, however, because its rapid spread across the Internet drew the notice of computer security companies. They have been able to work with domain name registrars, which administer Web site addresses, to block the botnet from dialing in.

Now those efforts will get much harder. On April 1, many Conficker-infected machines will generate a list of 50,000 new domains a day that they could try. Of that group, the botnet will randomly select 500 for the machines to actually query.

The bad guys still need to get only one of those up and running to connect to their botnet. And the bigger list of possibilities increases the odds they'll slip something by the security community.

Researchers already know which domains the infected machines will check, but pre-emptively registering them all, or persuading the registrars to neutralize all of them, is a bigger hurdle.

"We expect something will happen, but we don't quite know what it will look like," said Jose Nazario, manager of security research for Arbor Networks, a member of the "Conficker Cabal," an alliance trying to hunt down the worm's authors.

"With every move that they make, there's the potential to identify who they are, where they're located and what we can do about them," he added. "The real challenge right now is doing all that work around the world. That's not a technical challenge, but it is a logistical challenge."

Conficker's authors also have updated the worm so infected machines have new ways to talk to each other. They can share malicious commands rather than having to contact a hacked Web site for instructions.

That variation is important because it shows that even as security researchers have neutralized much of what the botnet might do, the worm's authors "didn't lose control of their botnet," said Michael La Pilla, manager of the malicious code operations team at VeriSign Inc.'s iDefense division.

The Conficker outbreak illustrates the importance of keeping current with Internet security updates. Conficker moves from PC to PC by exploiting a vulnerability in Windows that Microsoft Corp. fixed in October. But many people haven't applied the patch or are running pirated copies of Windows that don't get the updates.

Unlike other Internet threats that trick people into downloading a malicious program, Conficker is so good at spreading because it finds vulnerable PCs on its own and doesn't need human involvement to infect a machine.

Once inside, it does nasty things. The worm tries to crack administrators' passwords, disables security software, blocks access to antivirus vendors' Web sites to prevent updating, and opens the machines to further infections by Conficker's authors.

Someone whose machine is infected might have to reinstall the operating system.

Canadan Judge Allows Bail For Man Accused of Mass Murder


I don't think it is a normal course of action in Canada for those accused of mass murder to be released on bail, but maybe I'm wrong . . .

I guess that, just as long as you have a good education, you can bomb a synagogue.

Too bad he wasn’t a brick-layer or something, right? Then, I’m sure, he would have to rot in jail where he belongs.

I guess the judge forgot that these aren't just "four victims" who were killed, they were living, breathing human beings with a past, a present, a beautiful future. They had families who loved them. They spent years getting an education, making a career, building their lives, and struggling to help themselves and others.

Then, they were murdered by a stupid arab terrorist.

One Israeli Jew and three Non-Jewish French citizens were murdered on the evening of Shabbat Simcha Torah, the confluence of two of the happiest days in the Jewish calendar. Shabbat, our day of rest; and Simcha Torah, a happy, beautiful, and significant holiday when we celebrate G-d giving us the Torah.

The blast, although it killed four and injured 22, was somewhat of a miracle. If the blast had happened only a few seconds later, hundreds of people might have been killed. The bomb went off early. Most of the people in the synagogue hadn't had a chance to get out the doors.

Still, this miracle does not minimize the pain of the loss of those who were lost on that terrible evening in Paris. Even one life lost is a terrible tragedy, and the loss of four lives is incomprehensible.

The commemorative plaque affixed to the synagogue reads "In memory of Jean Michel Barbé, Philippe Bouissou, Hilario Lopez Fernandez, Aliza Shagra killed in the heinous attack against the synagogue on 3 October 1980.

After the attack, then Prime Minister Raymond Barre shocked the French nation by saying, "cet attentat odieux a voulu frapper les israélites qui se rendaient à la synagogue, il a frappé des Français innocents qui traversaient la rue Copernic" ("this heinous attacker wanted to hit the Israelites who went to the synagogue, but he hit innocent French citizens crossing the rue Copernic."

His words set off a firestorm of controversy in France because he was inferring that the Jews were, somehow, OK to target because they were "guilty" of being Jewish, while it was not OK to attack "innocent" French citizens. Thousands of people protested, both against the attack and against Barre's words.

I am saddened that I can't find more information about the three non-Jewish victims of the attack. I have searched everywhere, and I can only find two videos of the news coverage of Mr. Barbé's funeral, in French. However, I was able to find out information about the lone Jewish victim in English:

Aliza Shagrir, 42--an Israeli cinematographer, was walking past the synagogue with her 15-year-old son, Haggai, who today works at the Foreign Ministry. Her other son, Oron, is currently a university professor. Her husband, the Austrian-born Micha Shagrir, 69, established the Aliza Shagrir Fund prize for outstanding documentaries in her name. Micha Shagrir is a well-known television, film and documentary producer who lives in Jerusalem and has never remarried. He was appointed board chairman of Jerusalem's Khan Theater last year, and is a former director of the Sam Spiegel Film School and the Israel Film Foundation.

I hope that the families these four innocent victims of this arab terror, and those who were injured in the attack, do not go without justice because Canada has decided to be "politically correct."

Canada court bails alleged Paris bomber
05:14 AEST Wed Apr 1 2009

A Canadian-Lebanese man held for allegedly killing four people and injuring 40 in the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue has been ordered to be released on bail ahead of his extradition hearing.

Judge Robert Maranger set "very, very strict conditions" on Hassan Diab including that he remain in the home he shares with his partner in Ottawa, and wear an electronic tag.

Diab, a part-time university sociology professor, can only leave the house with one of five people who pledged to guarantee his good conduct and has to abide by a curfew, the judge said. His guarantors posted a 290,000-dollar bond.

Diab, 55, was arrested in November in an Ottawa suburb at the request of French authorities. He is wanted by France on charges of murder, attempted murder and the destruction of property after the 1980 bombing.

Prosecutors had argued during the bail hearing that Diab posed a flight risk as it was alleged he had previously traveled on false passports.

But the defense countered Diab had not sought to flee from arrest, even though he had known for a year, thanks to an article in a French daily, that he was being sought in the case.

In October 1980, a bomb planted in a motorcycle saddlebag outside the Copernicus Street synagogue in Paris killed three Frenchmen and a young Israeli woman, injuring dozens.

It was the first fatal attack against the French Jewish community since the Nazi occupation of World War II.

French authorities issued a warrant in November 2007 for Diab's arrest, following a lead from German intelligence saying he was involved.

In his bail decision, judge Maranger characterized the strength of the case against him was "moderate to high."

He noted Diab's "transient lifestyle," having lived in six other countries in the past 12 years, and his tendency to "not be drawn to long-term commitment."

The prosecution had argued several of his bail guarantors barely know him and Diab had proven himself capable of deceiving his partner by cheating on her behind her back.

Maranger, however, concluded: "I do not believe detention is necessary to maintain confidence in the administration of justice" in this case.

Funny Youtube Videos Bring Fame, Fortune, and Discussion About Jewish Culture


I can't say I am always happy with what appears to be "humor" on youtube regarding Jews (Sarah Silverman is a bit . . . rough).

But, there is a lot out there, especially at Pesach, to bring us together.

Here's a story about what's going on on Youtube--with all the links, of course!


YouTube Jews
by Amy Klein


SCENE: A fat, white Jewish boy wearing a backwards baseball cap, pink sunglasses and a snarl, walks down the street to the tune of “Baby's Got Back,” but instead of saying “I like a big butt and I cannot lie,” he's rapping these words:

Dawgs, I like matzah balls and i'll tell you why/
If I don't get 'em it makes me cry.
When the smell rolls in and I imagine the taste, and around them in your face
You get Tums!
Wanna eat that stuff – cuz one just ain't enough!
My clothes they keep on tearing, I'm fat but i'm not caring...
It's “Matzah Ball Rap,” one of the many Passover videos virally spread around YouTube, the premiere medium to get out a message -- whatever that message may be. Since the Passover seder is the most attended Jewish ritual of the year, the Jews of YouTube have lots to say about it, with videos -- funny, satirical, animated and somewhat educational.

In other words, a perfect medium for today's younger generation of Jews looking to connect to their heritage.

There are the rap songs, like the animated hip-hop video by Smooth-E (comedian Eric Schwartz) called “Matzah: Hip Hop Fo' Jews” (I feel like a freak/because every time I pull out something to eat for this week/I can't do it/because I'm Jewish/and I can't eat bread/and my rabbi said only/MATZAH!), which was featured on the “Tonight Show.” Then there are the melodic spoofs, such as Michelle Citrin's “20 Things to Do With Matzah” (Passover's over and wouldn't it be neat/if you could use all the matzah you didn't eat/Catch it like a Frisbee with your friends in the park/ or jump in the water and pretend you're a shark), which in the last year registered almost half a million hits.

There are the cute ones, like Sam Apple's “Who Let the Jews Out,” to promote his book “Schlepping Through the Alps” (Ballantine, 2006), and the utterly ridiculous ones, such as the movie preview “I Know What You Did Last Seder” (four Jewish teens are in great danger when a rabbi discovers they have been eating leavened bread during Passover).

Others are more substantive than songs, with modern-day interpretations of the Passover story, such as “Let My People Grow,” an animated sketch -- by Stephen and Joel Levinson, based on their seder skits growing up on Dayton, Ohio. This one frames the Jews' desire to leave Egypt as a breakup. (Jewish Slave Girl: “We think it's time to move on, you know, get a place of our own.” Egyptian master: “But you can't leave now! I mean things were going so well! Listen, this pyramid is almost done -- just finish it up ... ”)

“I think there's a lot of stuff to be had in the Jewish world: a cynical, modernist retelling of the Bible,” Joel, a full-time YouTube videographer who earns his living winning YouTube contests, said about “God and Co.,” Nextbook's video series of Bible stories. “God is portrayed in a way that he isn't usually portrayed.”

Just as the Internet and its blogs have upended traditional media like newspapers and television, YouTube has changed the way many young people think about religion. The Passover videos are just one example of how the Jews of YouTube -- usually 20- and 30-something comedians, musicians and writers -- are using their culture and creativity to redefine the tradition.

"Being Jewish is a part of me -- it's not the only part of me, but it's part of my story,” said Smooth-E, a comedian who has made dozens of YouTube videos, including Jewish ones like “Crank That Kosha Boy,” which has generated more than 3 million hits, perhaps because it spoofs SoulJa Boy's popular hip-hop song “Tell Em (Crank That).”

"As a Jewish artist, I'm telling my story. I kind of have a skewed view -- I look at matzah and think that I love the tradition, but matzah stops you up like traffic on the 405 at rush hour,” Smooth-E said, referring to a Los Angeles highway. “It's not disrespectful, but we can all relate to it.”

There are different reasons behind Jewish videos on YouTube.

Some are inadvertently America's Funniest Home Videos-style funny, like “Seth's Bar Mitzvah," which features a family singing karaoke horribly off-key. Others are serious affairs, like castigating the United Nations for its stance on Israel, or explaining Jewish rituals such as the seder.

But the ones that gain the most traction are the scripted, funny videos. Some promote Judaism, but in a more subtle -- and timely -- way.

Take Citrin's “I Gotta Love You Rosh Hashanah,” a parody of the “Barack Obama Girl” video (“Yom Kippur leaves me feeling empty inside/Passover reminds of the tears that we cry/but I don't want to think of our tragic history/cuz I'm comin' home for Rosh Hashanah”).

“The crazy part was the response I got from people -- 'You make me proud to be a Jew' and 'You're so cool,'” Citrin said, noting that she heard from children, grandmothers, even a Holocaust survivor. Hebrew school teachers told her they use it in their curriculum, and people still stop her on the streets.

“People really connect to it,” said the 28-year-old folk singer from Brooklyn.

Others use YouTube videos to promote a specific cause, such as Sarah Silverman's “The Great Schlep,” which encouraged young Jews to urge their grandparents to vote for Obama -- and grabbed more than 3 million views.

“Talk to your audience where they hang out,” said Matt Dorf, of Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications, who worked with the people behind “The Great Schlep” campaign, and Birthright Israel, a Jewish organization that makes good use of YouTube.

Birthright has hired artists like Citrin to make videos and holds video contests for program alums.

“It's where their people are,” Dorf said of the18- to 26-year-olds eligible for Birthright's first-time free trips to Israel. “You're not going to speak to them with a full-page ad in The New York Times.”

Where do people hang out?

On Web sites like JDate, which like Birthright recently hired Brandon Walker -- the songwriter of the 1.6 million-viewed video “Chinese Food on Christmas." For Birthright, he wrote a Passover one, “Get Down Moses," and for Jdate he wrote “February's Here” (“Never thought I'd be the type to use a dating site online/but February's here and I don't have a Valentine ...”).

“People come still come up to me and say, 'Oh my cousin from Argentina got it from his uncle in Israel who sent to his doctor in California,' these bizarre stories,” said Walker, 26, who teaches music at a Jewish day school in Baltimore in addition to writing music. (“Chinese Food on Christmas” was originally a college class assignment to write a Christmas song that he first posted on the Web in 2003).

Walker wasn't surprised by the popularity of his YouTube videos.

“Jews love to have a voice in pop culture," he said. "We're a minority and been through so much, but we're so vocal and prevalent -- I think that's why we love stuff like this.”

With YouTube, Walker said, Jews get “to make our presence known in a positive, lighthearted way, which is not always the case.”

What is the line between lighthearted parody and wicked satire? Between being "good for the Jews" and "bad for the Jews"?

Rob Kutner of "The Daily Show" doesn't think he crosses the line with Jewish spoofs -- “Meshuganeh Men” (Miss Holowitz, what would you say if I told you I had a cozy room reserved for you in the Catskills this weekend and we could curl up together and watch the Eichmann trial?) and “Jewno” (I thought it would be worse -- getting under 1200 under the SATs, donating money to the Jewish Bush presidential library, stopping a diet!”) -- all written to promote the 92nd Street Y/Tribeca's annual Purim shpiels.

“I think these are generally positive stereotypes,” Kutner said, although he does receive some negative feedback as well. “I figure words can never hurt me.”

Some YouTube Jews don't care much about whether it's good for the Jews or not. Consider “Miriam and Shoshana,” or as they are known on YouTube, “Hardcore Jewish Girls." Dressed in buttoned-up white shirts and knee-covering dark pleated skirts, they play Orthodox yeshiva high school girls rapping -- “School starts at 7:45 a.m./before that we get some 'Schevitz in/'82 'yo, study Torah/we'd read some to ya/but we'd bore ya” -- as they chase boys and dream of being like Amy Winehouse.

Videos such as “Hardcore Jewish Girls” and “Modern-Day Jesus,” both produced by filmmaker Oren Kaplan, 29, are not out to promote a holiday or a cause or Judaism -- just the artists themselves.

Kaplan noted that Comedy Central has optioned his “Modern-Day Jesus,” which he hopes will be a serious satire about religion and secularism.

“We get broader exposure on YouTube than through the film festival route and working our way up through Hollywood,” he said. “It allows us to throw stuff out there and see what people like and don't like, and it allows us to entertain."

It also caused a “conversation” on YouTube, where a rabbi made a video “banning” the "Hardcore Jewish Girls" video (“Hashem Yirachem [may God have Mercy] on all those involved and all those who have seen it,”) and another person “unbanned” it ("I think Hashem will be very proud and give them a lot of brachas”).

Ultimately, though, Reb Moshe of Safed left it up there because the video had so many hits, it ended up getting him hired for other work, including a promotional video for the city of Las Vegas.

What about people who don't get the joke?

“A lot of those involved with kiruv [religious outreach] seem to me overly concerned with how others think of the Jews,” said Kaplan, whose day job is a videographer for Disney.

“I have been socialized in a much more secular world. I don't really see a need to be extremely careful what I put out there,” he said. “I know it bothers a lot of people, but then [I say] don't watch it and don't talk about it.”

Monday, March 30, 2009

Good Riddance to Bad Garbage! Olmert Leaves Office. Finally! Thank You Hashm!!


Olmert is a fool, and I hope not one person in attendance for his long lament about Begin and the need to give up all of Israel to the murdering arabs was willing to listen. Bibi has it right, for once. "We will make peace with those who WANT peace" is a good attitude. They shouldn't have a guarantee of their own little fifedom from which they can launch terrorist attacks. They simply should have the guarantee that, if they show they really want peace, we can make an agreement.

I don't know why everyone has the idea that every agreement we make with them must have a component of giving up land.


Does the US give up land every time they make an agreement?

Does the British Parliment agree to give up parts of London to get peace with the Irish every time they make an agreement?

Why do we need to give up land to make an agreement. How about having them give up their claim to land that isn't theirs in exchange for us not blowing them up or sending them away? Why don't we take the strong side of this and stop being bullied?

I'm just so glad Olmert is gone. I hope the door hit him where the good Lord split him, and I hope it hit him HARD.

I don't want him coming back through that door--he is corrupt and evil and traitorous.

Let's hope Bibi does slightly better than Olmert. Let's PRAY Bibi does slightly better than Olmert. I'm not expecting him to, but I will pray that he does.

Netanyahu: We'll seek lasting, just peace

Day before he enters office, prime minister-designate tells Knesset 'any Arab state that truly wants to make peace will find our hand outstretched'; Olmert urges his replacement to adopt two-state solution

Amnon Meranda
Published: 03.30.09, 18:10 / Israel News

"Even I did not think we could reach a peace agreement with Egypt. I can only guess that (Menachem) Begin knew in his heart that there was only one way to make peace – to give up all of Sinai, including Sharm el-Sheikh," outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday during a special Knesset session commemorating the 30th anniversary of the historic accord.

A day before the official end of his government's term, Olmert urged his intended replacement Benjamin Netanyahu to continue the peace process with the Palestinians and seek a two-state solution.

"There is no Jewish state without the guarantee of a Jewish majority for generations to come, and this majority does not exist in Greater Israel, which is home to millions of Palestinians," he said. "The conclusion is clear: Two states for two peoples. There is no alternative – a two-state solution with massive international backing. It's possible."

Olmert told the session that his government was close to reaching an agreement with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, saying "given enough time, I believe we could have presented a peace agreement for the Knesset and cabinet's approval. This agreement would require a dramatic, painful and heart-breaking compromise."

Addressing Netanyahu, the PM said Israel was on the brink of direct peace negotiations with Syria. "You will receive all the details. Take the initiative fearlessly, don’t be deterred and history will repay you.

Olmert lauded Egypt's role in the negotiations on a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas, and said he "has no doubt" captive soldier Gilad Shalit will eventually be released.

Netanyahu, for his part, told the session that his government "will make every effort to achieve a just and lasting peace with all of our neighbors and the Arab world in its entirety.

"Any one of our neighbors who truly is willing to make peace will find our hand outreached," he said.

'Not too late'
As for the peace agreement with Egypt, the Likud chairman said, "Today we are marking three decades of calm, and this historic change should be praised whole-heartedly," and sent his regards to the Egyptian people and to President Hosni Mubarak "who is continuing in path of peace."

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in his speech that "unfortunately, (late Palestinian leader) Yasser Arafat was no Anwar Sadat, and neither is (Syrian President Bashar) Assad."

"I believe that it is not too late; we should not give up and continue to strive for peace," he said.

Earlier Monday, Netanyahu informed his party's Knesset members of their designated positions in his new government.

MK Michael Eitan was named minister-without-portfolio in charge of improving the governmental service to the citizens. MK Moshe Kahlon will be appointed communications minister, MK Yossi Peled will be a minister-without-portfolio, and MK Gila Gamliel will serve as deputy minister for women and youth affairs.

MK Yuli Edelstein will receive an operational role, Netanyahu said, although his areas of responsibility have yet to be determined. MK Gilad Erdan was informed of his appointment as environment minister and will also be a member of the Judges' Election Committee and serve as the liaison minister between the government and the Knesset.

MK Limor Livnat will serve as science, culture and sport minister, and will also serve in the National Security Cabinet, and MK Gideon Sa'ar will be appointed education minister, and will also sit in the National Security Cabinet.

Netanyahu also informed MK Yisrael Katz of his decision to appoint him to the position of transportation minister.

MK Reuven Rivlin, also from Likud, was appointed Knesset speaker, while MK Yuval Steinitz is slated to be named finance minister.

Sanhedrin Issues Letter of Warning--"Don't Make Agreements With Pope." I Just Wish BiBi Feared G-d As Much As He Fears the EU!


We all know what the Nazi Pope wants. He wants Mount Zion. This is where they think their god will come back to life, and they are in a hurry to claim it so that the other xtian churches can’t get hold of it. Those churches should be as worried as we are!

Of course, no one wants to deal with the issue of the holiness of the site to us, our yeshivas and study halls there, the history we have there, and our own special heritage. Nope. No one wants to even discuss that it is the burial place of David HaMelech!

They want to “make peace” with the Nazi Pope like some wagging dog with our tail between our legs and our ears down prostrating ourselves before a bloated belligerent bully who has beat us with a stick so many times that we can’t remember the number.

If they want to come to visit sites holy to them, they can. That is what is so great about Jews having control of Jewish land. When we are in control, others can come and visit. Others can come and pray.

When moslems or xtians control a site—even other moslems and xtians can’t go there—let alone Jews! Just look at what goes on in the Church of the Nativity! They are so busy fighting among themselves that they can’t even move a ladder!

Do you think the ROMAN catholic church would be any better? Hello! They still have the name of those pagan destroyers of our Holy Temple as part of their official title!! (Perhaps they are STILL PROUD of the Romans???)

Seriously, Israel is our land and they are welcome to come visit, but they definitely DON’T need to stay for the next millennia or more. Do you think the catholic church would be willing to give anything up to us if we went to demand, say, a seven-branched candelabra, some vestments, and a few trumpets from the Vatican?

The Nazi Pope is making sweet right now, but remember what he did with that bishop. Remember how he wants to make the Holocaust Pope into a Saint. Remember that he wants to make saints of the murderous Ferdinand and Isabella. We don't have to ask how he feels about Jews, he shows us daily! He says one thing and does another, and he is the big Kahoona of catholicism. There has to be a reason he has that job, and it isn’t because he loves and respects Jews.

Never forget: Xtians love Jews like a shochet loves a lamb.

Warning Issued Not to Sign With Vatican
by Hillel Fende

(IsraelNN.com) Pope Benedictus XVI is scheduled to arrive in Israel six weeks from now, and concern is growing over possibly irreversible Israeli concessions to the Church.

For more than ten years, Israel and the Vatican have been negotiating a diplomatic agreement regarding their tax dispute over Catholic Church properties in Israel, as well as other issues over which they disagree. Though public details are sparse to nil, Foreign Ministry officials say major progress has been made – leading many to fear that the Church will be granted a political and religious foothold in the Holy Land.

Though Church officials hope the agreement will be completed before the Pope’s arrival in May, this is not certain. Israeli Foreign Ministry’s Bahij Mansour, who heads its religious affairs section, said two weeks ago, "We are 85-90% there.”

Mansour also said that most issues still in dispute would be resolved in a meeting in April. Dr. Daisy Stern, who has researched and publicized the entire topic extensively, says that varying Italian reports say the meeting will take place either April 7 or April 23 - before and after Passover, respectively - and is to involve relatively high-level officials from both the Vatican and Israel’s Foreign Ministry. (Please hear the interview about this topic between Tamir Yona and Daisy Stern)

The Sanhedrin, a body of 71 rabbis that is attempting to renew the ancient tradition of Judaism’s most authoritative court, has written a public letter to Israel’s leading officials, warning that any agreement regarding the transfer of national, historic, and/or religious Jewish assets to the Catholic Church will be null and void and will not be recognized by Jewish authorities.

Striving for Internationalized Jerusalem
In February 2000, the Vatican and the Palestinian Authority signed an agreement calling for an internationally guaranteed special status for Jerusalem. During his visit that year, Pope John Paul II announced in Bethlehem that the Vatican had always recognized “Palestinian national rights to a homeland.” Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, Dean of Yeshivat Ateret Cohanim, said at the time that the Pope's goal was simply to obtain a foothold in Jerusalem for the Church.

The Sanhedrin, which sees itself as a “vehicle to bring about Jewish unity and civil justice, to help repair some of the deepest rifts in our society, and to provide an active, exemplary and unified Torah leadership,” warns President Shimon Peres and incoming Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu against the Church’s religious agenda hiding behind diplomatic agreements.

The letter states as follows [subheadings added]:

The State of Israel grants freedom of worship to every religion – except to Jews on their most sacred spot, the Temple Mount. They do not have the right to pray there, nor even minimal religious rights. The State thus contravenes the purpose for which it exists, and undermines its own foundations.

On the other hand, the State of Israel goes out of its way to transfer diplomatic, religious and spiritual assets to foreigners.

Over the course of many years, contacts have been underway and promises of various agreements have been made regarding what the Catholic Church sees as its property or wishes were its property, in Mt. Zion, the Old City of Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee, and elsewhere. There are those who came up with the idea of the Holy Crescent [an area around the Old City to the north and east, newly known as the Holy Crescent - ed.] -- the main purpose of which is to rid the Temple Mount and the Old City of exclusive Jewish sovereignty.

The Goal: Sever Jerusalem from Jewish People
Ever since the Israeli army liberated the entire city of Jerusalem in 1967, the members of other faiths and nations have not accepted the Jewish People’s sovereignty and return to its eternal capital, the place in which its Temple for the G-d of Israel and G-d’s kingdom will be established.

In recent years, the Vatican – acting on behalf of Catholic theology – signed a series of secret agreements, behind the public’s back, with various elements in the State of Israel, bereft of respect for the spiritual and political essence of the Jewish Nation. The essence of these agreements is the transfer of ownership over national Jewish property in Jerusalem to the hands of foreigners, and the instigation of processes to destabilize the Jewish People’s ownership over its sacred sites – primarily, the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, and the entire Old City of Jerusalem.

Giving these and other sites to the Vatican and international elements will lead to their detachment from the State’s territorial area.

The State of Israel is bound to the document of acquisition [known as] the Bible, which was the basis for the Jewish People’s claim to its Land when it established the State of Israel. The State must therefore actualize Jewish sovereignty in Jerusalem, the City of G-d, the city of kingship, the capital of Israel, the heart of the world. It must guarantee the right of worship for Jews on the Temple Mount…

Standing Up For Israel's Honor
It should be noted that in 1964, when Pope Paul VI visited Israel, the third President of Israel, Mr. Zalman Shazar, read to him the verse in Micah stating that though other nations might follow other gods, “we will walk in the Name of our L-rd G-d forever.” The Chief Rabbis at the time similarly stood up for Israel’s honor by refusing to meet with him at all, after he refused to meet with them in their Jerusalem office. [During his visit, Paul VI did not acknowledge Israel’s existence or visit its key sites, did not mention its name, and refused to meet with the Chief Rabbi in Jerusalem. He later addressed a thank you note to the Israeli president, who lived in Jerusalem, by writing, “Mr. Salman Shazar of Tel Aviv.” - ed.]

Public Opposition Worked
In 2000, when Pope John Paul II visited Jerusalem, various elements tried to promote foreign sovereignty on the Temple Mount at the expense of Israel’s sovereignty there. They attempted to enable the visit to the Jews’ holiest site in the world without official Israeli presence - but public opposition thwarted these efforts.

All official and religious elements in Israel must prevent the signing of an agreement that deviates from the spirit of this document, and express their objections to the Catholic restorationist tendencies whose goal are the neutralization of Israel’s sovereign powers and the Jewish People’s status in its Holy Land, the Land of Israel.

We expect you to show maximum alertness to the matter of Jerusalem as the holiday of Passover approaches, so that our right hand not be forgotten… Please, clarify your positions to your countrymen and the entire world. Show honor to the G-d of your forefathers, your city, and your nation, without flattery to foreigners who wish to minimize our national image…

The Sanhedrin asserts that the representatives of the State of Israel can represent the Jewish Nation as long as they act in accordance with its traditions and laws – and are not authorized to transfer the ownership, or authority over, lands and properties in the Land of Israel to any foreign religious or political element.

Agreement Will Be Null and Void
Therefore, any agreements made by such representatives with the Vatican as a theological political body, in opposition to the spiritual essence of the Nation of Israel, have no validity. They are all null and void, the Vatican should not believe that property promised to them by these contracts will remain in its hands.

Churches in Israel - The Result of Forced Exile
It should be remembered that the Vatican, as the leading Christian Church, is responsible for the legacy of Rome – the conqueror of Jerusalem, the exiler of its Jews, the destroyer of its land. All the churches that exists today in the Land of Israel are the result of the Jewish destruction 1,900 years ago, the elimination of the Jews from their land, and the exile that Christianity wishes to boast will be eternal. This, in addition to the priceless material and spiritual treasures found in the basements of the Vatican [such as the utensils of the destroyed Holy Temple - ed.], as well as the countless synagogues throughout the world that were confiscated by the Vatican and its representatives and not returned.

It is gravely forbidden to validate such agreements, as determined by the State’s criminal law code.

Warning: Religious War
Continued flattery to the Church on the basis of illegal agreements is liable to end, Heaven forbid, in destructive religious wars all over the globe.

Former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau has said that Pope Pius XII refused several requests by then-Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog to meet with him before and during the Holocaust to discuss how the Church could help save Jewish lives. After the war, too, Chief Rabbi Herzog asked for the Pope's assistance in locating Jewish orphans who were cared for by Catholic families, and again, the Pope refused.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Home-made Matzoh? Your Great Grandmother Made It, Why Not You?


OK, this is a hard year for everyone. We all are trying to save as much as possible. If you want some of that fancy designer matzah at your Seder, you may not be able to find it for the price you can afford.

The alternative is to make your own.

I know, I know. You are afraid. “G-d forbid!” you think to yourself, “What if I don’t get it completely cooked? What if it somehow rises!! OH NO!”

Do you think your great grandmother had some boxes of Pesach matzah she could just pull from the pantry for the Seder? Don’t you think she was equally worried? Of course.

But she did it anyway.

After all, it is in a custom, written of in Mishna Berura, that we should bake our Matzah on Erev Pesach. Rabbi Mansour suggests that the reason people do not keep this custom is that they are too worried about the matzah having some chametz. This is probably true, but I think it is equally true that the women didn’t want any flour in their kitchens that close to Pesach when they are trying to cook for the Seder.

However, you can still make your Matzah a little earlier in the week (when the rule of Bittul is still in effect and a bit of protection to you!) As Rabbi Mansour explains:

On Pesah, if even a tiny morsel of Hametz mixes with food, the food becomes forbidden. We do not employ the standard rules of Bittul (the “nullification” of forbidden food by a majority of permissible food) when Hametz mixes with food on Pesah. Before Pesah, however, there is greater room for leniency in this regard.

Homemade matzah is really not that hard to make. The key is to make roll it out thinly enough so that it is cooked well, and to make it quickly enough that it is finished baking before that magical 18 minutes is up. You might want to learn how to do this before Pesach and see if you can get it down.

Although some people prefer to have a rabbi or other halachic authority supervise their matzah making, it is not required. I know that the way the Rabbis check to see if the matzah is completely cooked is to break it. If there are still “strings” of dough, it is not cooked thoroughly. If it breaks cleanly with no “strings of dough” then it is kosher.

Also, the recipe calls for a special kind of flour that has been watched from the time of its harvest until it is baked into matzah. It is impossible to find this flour, I have found, and it is not really a requirement to have it. It is just an extra stringency.

If you have any questions about making your own matzah, don't forget to speak to your rabbi about the specifics.

I am going to try this recipe, but I am not going to mix 3 cups of flour with the water right away. Instead, I intend to make each matzah individually—1 cup of flour, 1/4 cup water: mix it, knead it, roll it out, bake it. Then I will add the water to the next cup of flour while the first is cooking—just to make sure that I can make it under the time allowed. At the very least, I will build my confidence in making matzah.

I am also probably not going to wait for Erev Pesach, as I want to clean my kitchen and don’t intend to have any flour hanging around that late.

Also, it will give my husband plenty of time to decide if he wants to use my homemade matzah or not . . .

How to Make Homemade Matzoh
By eHow Food & Drink Editor

As Passover approaches, boxes of prepared matzoh disappear from shelves of grocery stores. If you want to give something special this Seder, try making your own matzoh bread. All that is required is a little shopping and a lot of cleaning. This quick recipe makes a matzoh suitable for a Passover feast. Read on to learn how to make homemade matzoh.

Difficulty: Moderate
Things You’ll Need:

* 1 cup cold water from the tap
* 3 cups kosher matzoh flour (called Kemach Shel Matza Shamura)
* Measuring cup
* Kosher matzoh flour (called Kemach Shel Matza Shamura)
* Bread peel or sheet pan
* Water
* Large bowl
* Rolling pin

Step 1
Thoroughly clean your oven for Passover. You can use the self-cleaning function of your oven for this or use household cleansers. Do not forget to clean the inside rack of your oven as well.

Step 2
Bring out all of the utensils you intend on using for cooking during Seder. All of these bowls and cooking utensils need to be thoroughly cleaned of any traces of chometz--barley, wheat, rye, oats and spelt. Once the bowls and utensils are kosher, make certain they do not come in contact with anything that is not kosher.

Step 3
The utensils you will specifically need for making matzoh bread are measuring cups, a large bowl, a rolling pin, a large fork and a bread peel or a sheet pan with no side lip for sliding the bread into the oven and taking the bread out.

Step 4
Clean your counter tops to make them kosher. You can also spread out clean butcher paper onto your work space to make certain that your matzoh bread will be kosher. Sprinkle a small amount of flour onto your work surface and make certain that it is evenly spread over an area of two feet in diameter.

Step 5
Spread a small amount of flour onto the rolling pin and set aside.

Step 6
Sprinkle a small amount of flour onto the bread peel or sheet pan that you are using to move the bread in and out of the oven. Set aside.

Step 7
Heat your oven to the highest temperature. Do not use the broil function on your oven.

Step 8
Once everything is prepared, measure out your matzoh flour into the bowl.

Step 9
Set a kitchen timer for 18 minutes.

Step 10
Measure out the water will need. Start the timer and simultaneously pour the water into your flour. You will need to work quickly to finish mixing and keading the dough before the 18 minutes are finished.

Step 11
Mix the water and flour until the dough is consistent.

Step 12
Turn the dough out onto the work surface and quickly knead the dough until it is a firm ball. The dough should not be sticky. Do not hesitate to add a small amount of flour if the dough is too sticky.

Step 13
Roll the ball of dough to 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick. The dough should be very thin.

Step 14
Take a fork and poke many holes all over the dough. Carefully move the dough onto your bread peel or sheet pan and transfer your dough into the waiting oven.

Step 15
Bake the bread for two to three minutes, until the matzoh is crisp. Once the matzoh is finished, quickly use the peel or sheet pan to transfer the bread onto a kosher plate to cool.

“The police were liable to have been considered terrorists,” Judge Gadol said


You would think that, by now, we would all know that it is a criminal offense to be a Jew on Jewish land.

To be a Jew on Jewish land is a provocation!

Of course the police are trying to get the youths and arrest them and put them away for as long as possible. They are the evil religious spawn of evil religious Jews on Jewish land.

AAAARRGGH!! The stuff of nightmares!!

Who cares that the police didn’t follow the law? Its never been a problem in the past! The police have trampled, beaten, attacked, and humiliated Jews for being on Jewish land for as long as I can remember, and they have always gotten away with it. Ma Nishtanah?

And now we have a judge who actually thinks the police aren’t made of golden rainbows and chocolate dreams?

We have a judge who doesn’t think that the youth of the Shomron are all disfunctional juvenile delinquents who need to be jailed ASAP?

What is going on here? Who appointed this judge???

I certainly hope a plague of common sense has not broken out! If so, the “peace process” is doomed!

MKs Demand Investigation of Police Provocation
by Hillel Fendel

(IsraelNN.com) Condemnations of the police intensify, following the release of additional details of the ambush/entrapment the police perpetrated on Thursday against six Jewish youths from the Shomron.

Shomron Regional Council Chairman Gershon Mesika is demanding a public inquiry to thoroughly investigate the “provocation and its motives.” The incident involved policemen hiding inside an Arab-licensed car that was suspected of setting up a terror attack. The details were revealed based on a court ruling on the police request for extension of custody of the six arrested youths, and letter written by Mesika.
"...the policemen suddenly emerged from their hiding spot in the car and began attacking the residents with great violence..."

Mesika wrote to Shlomo Ka’atbi, head of the Samaria and Judea Police District, “A car with Palestinian license plates, driven by an Arab, with another Arab sitting next to him – [apparently] policemen disguised as Arabs – entered the area of the Gilad Farm, and parked on the side, with the two ‘Arabs’ appearing to need help in fixing a tire. This, while all four tires were in perfect shape. This aroused the suspicion of the residents that this might be an terrorist attempt, as occurred just two weeks ago in the Jordan Valley [when terrorists murdered two policemen who offered them help in changing their 'flat tire' – ed.].”

“After those two men [who appeared to be in need] responded with suspiciously strong aggressiveness to the residents’ questions and succeeded in causing the argument/clash that they wanted to create, the policemen suddenly emerged from their hiding spot in the car and began attacking the residents with great violence and tear gas – including residents who happened to be passing by.”

The Ynet article on the incident quoted the same letter, word for word – but omitted the words “in the car.” The Ynet report thus implied that the policemen were hiding nearby, outside the car. Mesika's letter states, however, that the policemen were hiding "in the car," and this is corroborated by eyewitnesses' testimony.

Police Version
Six youths were then arrested for “an attempted run-down” and “violence.” Shortly afterwards, the police spokesperson released a statement referring to the “Jewish residents’ “extreme violence.”

Judge Lashes Out at Police
On Friday, Kfar Saba Magistrates Court Judge David Gadol voiced strong criticism of the police, and ordered the immediate release of the arrestees; some of them were ordered not to leave their homes until Monday.

Judge Gadol’s unusually sharp criticism – he did not even agree to the police request for a brief stay of execution, which is commonly implemented in such cases – was directed at the very notion of carrying out an entrapment of this nature, and especially after two policemen were so recently killed in precisely the same way.

“For the police to again endanger its men in this way” is unacceptable, the judge said. He noted that the entire incident was an unreasonable provocation in order to create an artificial incident of violence, and was irresponsible from a security standpoint. “The police were liable to have been considered terrorists,” Judge Gadol said, adding that the police request for extension of custody was “unreasonable and disproportionate.”

MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) says he will demand that the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee hold a special session on the matter, and MK Gilad Erdan (Likud) says he will act to ensure this occurs. Both are members of the current “temporary” Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee until the incoming government appoints the permanent committee.

Yossi Dagan, of the “Homesh First” settlement organization, released this statement: “The disgraceful provocation by the special unit police proves once again that for the goal of maligning the residents of Judea and Samaria, everything is permitted, including provocations, trickery, and violence. It is once again clear to all that those who come to hurt the [Jewish] settlement enterprise in the name of the ‘rule of law’ behave like the biggest criminals.”

The incident occurred shortly after Shomron residents began blocking roads in response to the police/army destruction of the start-up outpost neighborhood of Meoz Esther outside Kokhav HaShachar on Thursday.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Abortion Rhetoric Within Orthodox Judaism: Consensus, Conviction, Covenant


If you are looking for an emotional and/or spiritual discussion of the abortion issue, this is not it. This is an intellectual treatment of the issue of rhetoric and how abortion is debated in relation to Jewish Law.

It is a very serious piece, very well presented, and somewhat difficult to get your mind around without strong concentration and a clear understanding that purpose of this work is not to argue one side or the other in regard to the abortion issue, but to critically analyze and interpret the argumentative structures surrounding the issue of abortion.

In Ph.D. Speak: A meta-discussion of the abortion issue within religious Judiasm.

The Abortion Rhetoric Within Orthodox Judaism: Consensus, Conviction, Covenant

By Rabbi Alan Yuter

Rabbi Yuter is the Rabbi of B'nai Israel, the Orthodox synagogue of downtown Baltimore. He is a faculty member in the department of Bible and Jewish Law at the Institute for Traditional Judaism.

The abortion rhetoric provides the hermeneutic key whereby the contemporary contenders to the faith franchise called "Orthodox Judaism" reveal the moral essences of their alternative constructions of religious reality. At stake in this conversation is the meaning of Masorah, a culturally encrusted code word. According to the Judaism of the Rabbinic canon, or book-based Orthodox Judaism, it is the transmitted oral Torah as preserved for the collective of Israel in the public, vetted literature of the rabbis up to and including the Babylonian Talmud. Masorah is however also invoked as the retort of last resort to resolve the often occurring conflicts between the canonical Torah library and the living culture of affiliating Orthodox Jews. While, in theory, the Orthodox Jew consults the canon, the literary trove of which is both necessary and sufficient source of normative value, in practice this trove is mediated by rabbis, known as gedolim, great ones, or hakhmei ha-Mesorah, Masoretic sages, whose divinely inspired intuition is empowered to parse divine intent and to preserve the cohesiveness of culture based Orthodox Judaism.

This study contrasts the legal rhetoric regarding the abortion issue. What does the plain sense of the canonical library actually prescribe? And what is the view of that version of Orthodox Judaism that bases itself on the intuitive consensus of an elite group of rabbis through a kind of "continuous revelation"?

To accomplish this goal, we examine:

1. the apologia and rhetoric of "pro-life" Orthodox Judaism
2. the actual values encoded in the Judaism of the canonical documents regarding [a] fetal life and [b] the grounds for authorizing an abortion
3. the actual position of the Judaism of the canonical documents regarding abortions
4. the self-understandings of the two Orthodox Judaisms that compete with each other, in pre-modern and in modern times

1. The apologia and rhetoric of "pro-life" Orthodox Judaism

This version of Orthodox Judaism reflects the publicly proclaimed consensus of those who are self-authorized, empowered, and emboldened to speak as spokesmen [women have no voice in this Judaism] for Torah. The pronouncements of this dialect of Orthodox culture are apodictic, dogmatic, authoritative and authoritarian. For this Orthodox Judaism, conversation is condemned as disrespectful to God because God's vicarious spokesmen alone are authorized to speak-because they are intuitively endowed-- on God's behalf. Persuasion of peers is for this Orthodox Judaism pointless because those issuing bold, culture conservative apodictic rulings are, by their own account, without peer. According to Rabbi Herschel Schachter's understanding of his teacher, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, great rabbis may rule from intuition or "from the gut," but most rabbis may not even entertain the right to articulate a reasoned opinion. After all, these second tier rabbis do not understand Torah deeply and intimately because they [1] have not been vetted as great rabbis by the clique of great rabbis and [2] these second rate Orthodox rabbis, by dint of their corrosive exposure to non-Jewish and non-ultra-Orthodox culture, are presumably under the influence of un-Jewish heretical ideas, ideologies, and sensibilities. Therefore, in order to be considered to be legitimate Orthodox rabbis, second tier rabbis are required to defer to the pious policies of the truly great rabbis, those untainted by secularity, and forgoing the role of posek [religious authority] and assuming the role of police, who deferentially and piously enforce the policies, positions, and proclamations of the truly authentic great rabbis. To this view, citing relevant sources is insufficient, and otherwise compelling logic is spiritually inadequate. Only those accepted as great rabbis are authorized as Masoretic sages to preserve the ethic, ethos and spirit of authentic Judaism. In this Judaism, authentic Torah opinion, Daas Torah, resides primarily in the charismatic person, rather than in the canonical object, or sacred text. In this Judaism, the sacred Torah serves as the rhetorical resource trove which is sifted, shifted, and manipulated in order to justify the apodictic rulings of the actual and ultimate source of living Torah, the inspired intuition of great rabbis, the actual word of the Lord that applies in contemporary times.

The Judaism "of the canonical documents" is the alternative Orthodox Judaism that challenges the claims of the charisma-led Orthodoxy described above. According to Rabbi Marc Angel, this is the Judaism of the oral Torah applied appropriately to current settings. And according to Prof. Jacob Neusner, this is the Judaism of the Dual, i.e., oral and written Torah, which alone expresses God's will as proclaimed at Sinai, in the wilderness sojourn, in the Prophetic writings and Hagiographa, and in the Oral Torah library. Contemporary Orthodox Judaism has undergone change in modernity because it is self-conscious about its religious choice and identity, which is not the case for pre-modern Traditional Jewish religious communities. Modern Orthodoxy's adherents and advocates, this writer included, believe that God is revealed in the sacred text as explained persuasively by whoever makes the most reasonable, persuasive, and compelling reading of that canon. Apodictic rulings, declaratory judgments, and ex cathedra decrees are not recognized to be legitimate value statements according to the version of Jewish Orthodoxy that is encoded in the Oral Torah canon. These apodictic rulings may only issue with authority from a Sanhedrin sitting in plenum, but not from post-Talmudic self-selective clerics sitting in clergy conclaves, whose intuition is taken to represent God's will.

The charismatic Orthodox Judaism opposes an expanded abortion license by appealing to the sanctity of life and human humility, a code term intended to intimidate ethical initiative, demean the rectitude of the individual moral conscience, and to foster legal inactivity by besmirching and delegitimating those who would dare to revisit classical texts in order to reconsider and perhaps revise practices and policies, based upon a philological reading of the sacred canon. While for the Judaism of the Oral Torah, halakhic discourse rejects mysteries and vague platitudes out of hand, [Dt. 10:28] "pro-life" culture conservative Judaism, representing what it takes to be the moral high ground, with its accompanying legitimating stringency, cannot tolerate a conversation regarding what the canon actually records because with conversation comes the moral demand for accountability.

2. The actual values encoded in the Judaism of the canonical documents regarding [a] fetal life and [b] the grounds for authorizing an abortion

The most relevant Biblical passage informing the abortion controversy is:

When [at least two] men fight and [inadvertently] strike a pregnant woman
and [as a consequence of the blow] the fetuses abort but there is no calamity [i.e. the pregnant woman survives the blow] [the offending culprit] must assuredly be punished as to be mandated by the woman's husband in court. [Ex. 21:22-23]

In this passage, the incident of unintentional feticide is punished by a fine, but the offending culprit is not consigned to a city of refuge, which would be the case were this accidental abortion to be viewed as a homicide [Exodus 21:23]. Therefore, the assault upon the fetus is, according to the Pentateuchal document that every Orthodox Judaism accepts to be the will and word of God, the human fetus carries the status of property, but not person.

However, the canonical library of the Oral Torah, the foundation documents of which are also sacred canon for Orthodox Judaism, provides the literary, theological, and legal filter whereby Biblical norms are legally processed and culturally applied. The approaches of our two contending Orthodox Judaisms to this canonical legal filter reveals, en passant, that there are two competing and ideologically incompatible Orthodox Judaisms contending for recruits, recognition, and the collective soul of the Orthodox affiliating community.

The tendentious reading of this passage advanced by pro-life Orthodoxy cites the following Talmudic comment, with its accompanying ideological spin, to be the final, exhaustive, and to its view unquestionable will and word of God:

[In the case of] a woman in hard labor [the court mandates] the cutting of the unborn fetus and removing it [from the womb] limb by limb because her [i.e. the mother's] life takes precedence over its [i.e. the fetal] life. [bSan 72a]

According to Rabbi J. David Bleich, only in this case, where the fetus endangers the life of the gestating mother, may an abortion be condoned, and in other cases, i.e., when the gestating mother is not in mortal danger, the abortion procedure is by implication forbidden. [Contemporary Halachic Problems, New York, 1977, 327) But the Talmudic context cited here only refers to a legally mandated abortion. Philologically parsed, this canonical statement prescribes that in a case in which the maternal life, i.e., a legally defined person carrying moral rights, is endangered by a life threatening fetus, which prior to birth is considered to be not a person but property, Oral Torah law mandates the destruction of the fetus, which is property, in order to spare the actual living human person, the gestating mother. The claim, advanced by R. Bleich and others, that an abortion is in fact forbidden by statutory implication, reflects the a priori ideology of the exegete but neither the philological sense of the statute nor the actual norm encoded in that statute. Maimonides astutely and precisely ruled [Laws of the Murderer and Life Preservation 1:9] that this case, when the gestating mother is herself endangered by the fetus she carries, is akin [but not identical] to that of the pursuer, when it appears that one person pursues another person with apparent intention to commit rape or murder, a bystander may take the requisite vigilante action to stop the pursuer, even by killing the presumptive culprit, should circumstances so require.

3. The actual position of the Judaism of the canonical documents

According to what Orthodox Jewish believers, committed to the Written Law as filtered by the Oral Law, are supposed to maintain, the penalty for fetal destruction is a fine, indicating that in Israel's canon, feticide is a tort, not a crime, an assault upon property, not person. The identical definition recorded in Israel's sacred canon also appears in Hammurabi's code. [CH 210, ANET 17-19] The only, but critical, difference between the ethic of the Torah and the ethos of Hammurabi's code is that for the latter, human and property worth inhabit the same moral universe, while for the Torah ethic the human person carries moral rights because s/he carries the image of God and may not be reduced to or treated as property.

Pro-life Orthodox Judaism ignores the astonishing fact that the religiously canonical bArakhin 7a-b actually fills the gap of the wrongly and ideologically imputed silence of bSanhedrin 72a. The claim that non-therapeutic abortions must be halakhically forbidden is based [or biased] upon an ideological reading of a passage that only and explicitly deals with a mandated abortion. In bArakhin 7a-b, a woman about to be executed by the court is, if pregnant, aborted, [a] even though the biological father has property rights to the unborn, because the court is empowered to confiscate property, in this case, the fetus for which there is a paternal claim of property concern, and [b] the grounds for taking this action, the destruction of the fetus, is the shame that the condemned woman would endure if executed while pregnant. Therefore, the condemned woman's shame provides sufficient warrant to confiscate what Jewish law in its canonical statement defines as property. We have in this passage an explicit warrant for discretionary abortion.

In search of an anti-abortion argument, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein ["Abortion: a Halakhic Perspective," Tradition 25 (Summer 1991), 4] contends that [a] since the Israelite law must be more rigorous for an Israelite than non-Israelite, [bHullin 33a], and [b] a non-Israelite is executed for the crime of feticide, [ bSan 57a] , R. Lichtenstein concludes syllogistically, abortion "must" be forbidden to Jews by implication because it is forbidden explicitly to non-Jews. Like R. Bleich, R. Lichtenstein is ideologically predisposed to justify a restrictive abortion ruling and not to read the canon as an objective text scholar applying philological controls, going where the data leads, being disinterested in the resultant findings, and to use R. Bleich's very felicitous idiom, letting "the chips fall where they may." R. Lichtenstein's very clever construction is however parried by the legal fact that non-Israelites suffer execution for assaults on property, while Israelites are not so sanctioned. Thus, the claims that Israelite law "must" be stricter than other legal systems and that only therapeutic abortions are by implication licit, must be addressed philologically, not ideologically. Therefore, in its canonical version, Orthodox Judaism requires an abortion when there is a danger to human life, and considers shame to be a ground to authorize other, i.e., discretionary abortions. Were Jewish law to outlaw abortions undertaken to avoid shame, then the bArakhin 7a-b passage would not appear in the Talmudic canon. In the case of a woman pregnant with an illegitimate fetus, R. Yair Bacharch [Havot Yair 31] was restrictive on public policy grounds, conceding that a lenient ruling might be justified if the letter of the law were the only relevant consideration. Jewish law does allow for policy strictures, but not for ideologically driven misrepresentations of the evidence, here evidence of the popular refusal to deal with or address the implications of the bArakhin 7a-b evidence. Furthermore, the Lichtensteinian position, that stricture is per se a quality of Torah ethic, while finding roots in Tosafot, does not seem to reflect the religion of sacred canon. After all, Nadab and Abihu were both extra strict and extra wrong. [Leviticus 10:1-7]

4. The self-understandings of the two Orthodox Judaisms that compete with each other, in pre-modern and in modern times

While taken in amazement with the creative, innovative, and dazzling apologias for the pro-life position, argued brilliantly by Rabbis Bleich and Lichtenstein, both nevertheless seem to arrive at their respective conclusions prior to their investigation of the data. Neither rabbi advocates a strict construction reading of the canonical law but both appeal to "morality," derived from culture bias, a self-defined "spirit of the law," and what appears to be culture conservative subjective taste. R. Lichtenstein also suggests that there is a normative morality that is beyond the halakha that is nevertheless binding. Pro-life culture traditionalist Orthodox rabbis read the canonical documents as if their intuitions reflect God's intentions, and accordingly read the sacred canon selectively, finding in the Torah that ethic which they are programmed, conditioned, and expected to find, and will ignore and, in the case of bArakhin 7a-b, suppress facts, however canonical those facts may be, when those facts fly in the face of deeply revered sensibilities, self-evident intuition, and consensus social policy. God transmitted a textual Torah book to all Israel but did not transmit a secret, private, hidden interpretation code entrusted only to a special self-select elite. By allowing the book/text of the Jewish sacred canon to be superseded by policy driven posekim, albeit with the best of intentions and moral instincts, pro-life Orthodox Judaism de jure claims that God's Torah, while divine and from Heaven, is transferred to their human hands and authority and is no longer in Heaven. According to the Judaism of the Oral Torah, only the Great Sanhedrin is invested with this power, and without this legislative/judicial institution, Torah is entrusted to all Israel and is read with literary and historical tools and with a public conversation, not with intuitive explanations bereft of review, dialogue, and persuasion.

The abortion debate has a long history in Jewish law. One Tosafist view allows abortion, and another does not, arguing that Judaism cannot be less strict than non-Jewish religions. The restrictive view is often cited, the lenient view is not. While to his abiding moral credit, Rabbi Feinstein unflinchingly cited and addressed the lenient Tosafist view, he argued from conjecture and without a shred of evidence that the lenient view must be rejected because the Tosafist text is corrupt. Maimonides argues that the claim, "Judaism must be stricter than other religions," is inadmissible, that Judaism alone defines Judaism, and we do not spin texts in order to find what we wish to find. [Iggeret ha-Shemad] So for Maimonides, [1] Torah religion is about obeying God's law and not being reflexively strict, and we argue that [2] before one claims that a given text should be discarded because it is corrupt, that corruption must be identified and defined, and not merely proclaimed because the textual content conflicts with the interpreter's positions.

The pro-life Orthodox culture conservatives are what Professor Jeffery Gurock calls modernity "resisters," while the scientific modern Orthodox who are committed to a philological parsing of the canon, seek to "accommodate" modernity. For the former, Halakha is not primarily what the Jew must do, it is the lomdus/conceptualism that the rabbinic elite imposes upon the canon so that religious culture not change, the cohesiveness of Orthodox society not become unglued, and its leadership status not be challenged. But lomdus, or "learningness," is a term unattested in Israel's canonical library; it is an invented culture construct created to empower an exclusive rabbinic elite to monopolize the interpretive access to the canon in order to make theologically correct normative judgments. This elite is unabashedly and passionately opposed to the philological reading of the canon because, in the words of the late R. Ahron Soloveichik, academic, philological readings of the canon undermine "the sanctity of Torah." To this view, allowing access to parse the divine word is a recipe for theological, communal, and sectarian anarchy.

Ironically, ultra-Orthodoxy denies the great rabbi credentials to modern Orthodox rabbinic elite rabbis because they are too "modern." When religious legitimacy is political but not exegetical, it is power and not persuasion that invests ideas that are politically correct with religious valence, as these ideas are proclaimed to be theologically correct. Thus, being a "great rabbi" is determined not only by expertise and scholarship, but by politics, culture taste, and social policy. Thus, for Haredi Judaism, Rabbis Lichtenstein and Joseph Soloveitchik cannot be great rabbis because [a] they are Zionists and [b] earned secular doctorates in English and Philosophy, respectively. Furthermore, the reading presented here reflects the influence of Responsa Piskei Ben Zion Uzziel 52, that has been ignored but not refuted by the rabbinic consensus.

The Arakhin passage quoted above is in culture conservative Orthodox circles vocalized "erkhin." [sic] According to Hebrew grammar, the singular erekh, value, in the plural becomes arakhin, not erkhin. And the form erkhin is also grammatically improper because were the form to exist-which it does not-it would be vocalized erkin, with a "k". In order to condition its affiliating community not to read Israel's sacred canon philologically, like the early authorities, i.e., the rishonim, and in our time, R. Uzziel, there may be no applied study of grammar, syntax, semantics, or hermeneutics in culture conservative, pro-life, modernity resisting Orthodoxy. By obfuscating the tradition/masora of canonically correct Hebrew, the Tradition of canonical text is replaced with and is superseded by the "tradition" of culture conservatives who are singularly endowed to divine God's true intentions.

The other Orthodoxy, populated by the militant moderates of Modern Orthodoxy, are committed to philology because this Orthodoxy pines to hear and obey the actual voice of the living God as revealed in the Torah's living words. God did not entrust the Torah to any sacred synod of Torah sages, but to the collective of Israel, Morasha kehillat Ya'akob. Maimonides ruled not based on human charisma, but the best reasoning based upon the best rendering of the canonical reading. Culture conservative modernity- resisting Orthodoxy prizes conformity in practice, dress, thought and attitude; the moderate militants of Modern Orthodoxy culture accommodators believe that God's unchanging principles apply to ever changing social realities. The culture conservative Orthodox looks to the sociology of the community and is therefore ironically similar to the Reconstructionist approach, which claims that ultimate religious normativity is grounded in social rather than in theological and covenantal concerns.

R. Ya'ir Bachrach [Responsum 31] ruled restrictively regarding the termination of a fetus conceived in adultery on policy grounds. Policy claims must persuade but may not intimidate. They certainly may not claim that their voice is God's voice. God gave the Torah to "us," the collective called Israel, not to an elite, save the Great Sanhedrin; not to a clique, however convinced it may be by its self- selecting consensus, and not by partisans of any party. Like the statutes/mishpatim that are rational and are intended to persuade, we welcome conversation, not coercion, reason, not reproach, and ideas, not ideology.

The abortion debate within Orthodox Judaism reveals that there are two contenders for the mantle of Orthodoxy. The modernists read the sacred canon and its law literally, the Biblical and rabbinic narratives figuratively, and find God in the sacred text. Orthodoxy's culture conservatives read the law figuratively and the narratives literally so that critical thinking be suppressed, so that God's presence is transferred from the holy text to the holy person. The modernists read texts critically because they want to know how to think; Orthodoxy's anti-modernists read their agenda into the text because [1] the Jew is taught what to think and [2] challenging those who tell others what to think is akin to challenging God. Which version of Orthodoxy do you, the reader, believe to be the true seeker of God's will?

Israel Needs a Constitution, But Be Careful About What's In It!!


This is a beautifully written piece by Rabbi Brackman, and I totally agree with his assertion that Israel is being torn apart by different factions and that we need a constitution to deal with those pressures.

He brings up how the IDF does things constantly which are offensive to the religious soldiers, and he gives the example of religious soldiers walking out on a woman singing a solo at an IDF event, and the chief education officer's insensitive comments about the situation.

I agree. One of the greatest of these offenses (which is not brought up in Rabbi Brackman's article), is using the IDF as a wrecking ball for settlements in Yesha.

Yesterday, A soldier in the transportation corps was tried and sentenced on Thursday to 20 days in jail for his refusal to take part in the uprooting of Jews from the Meoz Esther outpost near Kochav Hashahar, earlier in the day.

The unidentified Solder is a resident of the Samarian town of Kedumim, and he is one of those who was uprooted from the northern Samarian Jewish community of Sa-Nur in the Disengagement of 2005. He refused to take part in the emptying of five buildings in Meoz Esther that the IDF was tasked with destroying.

This means the soldier will be in jail during Pesach--a very ironic situation, don't you think? He is being jailed during our celebration of freedom for the crime of refusing to evict Jews from the land that G-d brought us to. Hmmmm.

Believe me, if listening to a woman’s voice was the least of these religious IDF soldiers had to put up with, we could easily solve the problem—but it is not.

Rabbi Levi Brackman may have a point that we need a constitution in Israel to deal with these issues, and he is right. Without that constitution, our supreme court is woefully incompetent (and maybe WITH the constitution too!).

But, again, Rabbi Brackman doesn’t really get it. He says a constitution would outline “common purposes and values,” but that is not what we need from a constitution. The strength of the constitution of the United States, for example, is that it does NOT enforce common purposes and values other than those which enforce the legitimacy of law.

A constitution should never concern itself with the enforcement of a “common purpose” or “values.” Instead, a constitution must define the rights of human beings within the government system and the responsibility of those individuals as members of that nation.

In short, a constitution should not be about “purpose and values,” it should be about “rights and responsibilities.”

I think the reason that Israel never defined a constitution is that Israel was founded by socialist-leaning seculars. In order for a constitution to function properly, one must be willing to define the limitations of the state in regards to individual rights. This is the antithesis of socialist thinking.

Socialists don’t want to protect individuals from the state. The socialists want the state to protect individuals from themselves and their right to think, believe, and act in opposition to the state. No socialist government can understand the importance of individual rights and responsibilities. Not socialist “constitution” is anything more than a document that restates their socialist goals and reinforces the states powers over the rights of individuals.

We don’t want a socialist constitution, one that, as Rabbi Brackman states, enforces “common purposes and values.” That is a socialist constitution.

Israel needs a constitution that protects rights and demands responsibility. However, that type of constitution requires that Israeli citizens begin to see themselves not as an extension of the state, but as individuals with rights and dignity that is G-d given and beyond the control of any state.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal;
that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."

--Declaration of Independence as originally written by Thomas Jefferson, 1776. ME 1:29, Papers 1:315

Israel needs a constitution
Rabbi Levi Brackman

With cracks in Israeli unity widening, it is time to unify around voluntarily accepted common purposes and values

Published: 03.27.09, 11:08 / Israel Jewish Scene

There are worrying signs that Israeli society may be tilting towards a damaging inner fight between the religious and secular segments of society. This is occurring not only on the level of national politics where there has been contentious discussion about secular civil marriage and conversion reform, but perhaps more disturbingly, this is also happening in the army.

Earlier this month about 100 soldiers walked out of a Paratroop Brigade meeting because a female performer began to sing. Anyone familiar with the Jewish religion knows that Jewish law prohibits men from listening to a woman singing a live solo. Clearly a secular person will not agree with the reasons for this law. But the rationale of the law is irrelevant. What is important here is that the soldiers sensibilities, religious or cultural, be respected.

But this did not occur. Instead, according to Ynet, the army's chief education officer, Brigadier General Eli Shermeister, described the exit of the religious soldiers as a "worrisome phenomenon that should not be accorded continued legitimacy." He explained that these events are designed to foster group cohesion and allowing some participants to leave defeats that purpose.

IDF offensive to religious troops
It is frankly unbelievable that the IDF’s top officer for education does not realize that it is the organizers responsibility to ensure that the program will not cause offense to the participants. His suggestion is akin to me calling you a derogatory name and then blaming you for being offended. If this would be the first time this happened the army could be forgiven, but they have been offensive to religious soldiers numerous times before and with a similar result.

Clearly in the mind of Brig.-Gen. Shermeister having a woman sing a solo at an event that the army has mandated religious men to attend does not contradict his idea of unity. The reason is obvious. He represents and erroneous point of view that sees unity solely as represented by the externalities. If everyone sat and listened to the assembly, wore the same uniform and clapped in the same manner there would have been unity in his opinion. The fact that there was no common purpose or unity of values does not affect his idea of harmony.

The Torah, and therefore religious Jews, has a completely different take on the concept of unity. For the first twelve days of the month of Nissan (that began this week on Thursday) we read the part of the Torah that describes the sacrifices brought by Jewish tribal leaders during the dedication of the tabernacle in the desert. Each tribal leader brought exactly the same package of sacrifices albeit on a different day.

Common purposes and values
This underlines the Torah’s view of unity. Externally the tribes could not have been more different. They were all given different blessings by the patriarch Jacob. Each tribe had a different flag and performed different tasks and made a living in different ways. However, they all had the same inner core of values. This was represented by the fact that when it came to the service of G-d they all as individuals brought exactly the same package of sacrifices.

A perceived cohesiveness represented by an exterior show of unity counts for very little. Real unity and interconnectedness is characterized by a common purpose and values. In Israel the common purpose has always been fighting for the survival of the country, a unity that has been thrust upon Israelis against their will. Tragically the cracks are visible all over the place.

Now with a new unity government about to be installed, that includes religious parties as well as Right and Left-wing politicians, it is an opportune time to give up on the shallow idea of unity that we have become used to and work together to unify around voluntarily accepted common purposes and values. Maybe it is finally time to bite the bullet and form a formal constitution that all Israelis can unify and rally around. If Iraq can do it why can’t Israel?