Tuesday, March 27, 2007


My nephew, Baby Boy Blue, is having his pidyon today in Jerusalem, so we'll be heading down south later on this afternoon. I called my brother to give him some advice about what not to speak about. Some people might speak about the 2 times that you would do a pidyon, when your wife has a boy and when your donkey has a boy and then they would try to compare it. Women sometimes misunderstand the vort and think that you are referring to them in the same way you refer to a donkey. My brother agreed not to use that vort for the sake of shalom bayis. (He said he wasn't going to anyways, but sometimes you have to warn your little brother)

This week the settlers are trying to resettle the Shomron village of Chomesh. Chomesh was destroyed 2 years ago during the with Gazan Rezoning project, where they zoned all of Gaza to be prohibited to Jews. Unlike historic Miami, the zoning laws do allow dogs to remain.

I have very mixed feelings about what is going on in Chomesh. On the one hand, it is part of Israel and we should have the right to settle it. On the other hand, it says in pirkei avos, "pray for the welfare of the government, for if people didn't fear it man would eat his friend alive." The point is that we have a system of laws that we accepted and even if we don't agree with the laws there is something to following them in any case.If the law was against the Torah, obviously you have to stand up against it. But in a case of settling the land, you are not violating any commandment if you live in your own piece of Israel and don't try to settle another part. One of my big problems with the concept is that these people will run to the Israeli court systems to solve their problems, but if the court system rules against them then they call it illegitimate and biased against them. If that were the case, then they should take the road of not recognizing the court system and not running to it to solve their human rights problems. That being said, I think we need a dose of reality here and recognize that we do live in a system of laws. While we can protest the law and try to change it using political and diplomatic means, we should not resort to violence and vandalism to gain our objectives.

That the police and army use violence to disperse people who are breaking laws and refuse to stop peacefully is acceptable in every part of the world. There is no other option other then to allow the people to break the laws. I don't think they should be over-violent, but that happens when you push them to resort to the violence. As an example, if someone came onto my land and refused to leave, I would expect the police to physically remove him. If the law is that you can't be in a place and you go there I expect the police to physically remove anybody who breaks the law. When you force someone to use physical means to gain an objective, unexpected violence can happen.

The answer is to change the law. If we are such a small minority that we cannot, then that basically sucks for us.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

happy brithday mrs. rock

Everyone wish a happy birthday to my dear wife, who has gotten one year older today. We will be celebrating the occasion tonight at Morganfelds Steak House in Moshav Liman, about 5 miles from the Lebanese border.

I heard that the rest of the country had a air raid drill this week. Apparently they decided that our systems had already been fully tested this summer and there was no reason to test them again. The girls school did have their own drill, but without any siren.

1 KG= 2.2 lbs

In honor of Pesach someone was selling 10 KG boxes of meat in various cuts, a fixed price no matter which cut you got. The boxes were supposed to contain 10 1 KG pieces of the different cuts. We wanted 2 boxes and some friends wanted a box, so we ordered 3 boxes. When we went to pick it up, the boxes were not 10 KG each, so we ended up taking a box of 18 KG and a box of 14 KG and we had to pay for the extra 2 kg. The first box my wife opened was pretty much what we expected. A variety of 7 different kinds of meat of various shapes and sizes. The second box we opened had 12 pieces of meat, but 7 of them were the same type. Then we had to divvy up the meat with our friends. This wasn't as simple as we thought it would be when we had planned on giving them a whole box. So he brought over a scale and we divided the pieces of meat accordign to type and then started weighing and figuring. It was a bit confusing because we were taking 2/3 and they were taking 1/3 but we didn't want to start cutting the meat. So we weighed and traded and tested and thought until finally our friends had 11 KG and we had 21 KG and everyone was happy.

In offices around the world there is a simcha tax, someone has a baby you give 20 shekel and buy a present from the whole office. I've seen this custom in all the various places I've worked. It comes around. When we had our baby we got a nice present from my co-workers. Today someone came into my office and said that I hadn't paid the simcha tax for International Russian Women's day from 2 weeks ago and he wanted 25 shekel. To be fair on International Russian Men's day, I received a chocolate bar from the Russian women. Obviously I paid because that is how you stay in good standing with the other people in the office, but I thought that maybe it was a bit much to be taxed for someone else's international day. Maybe I should go around collecting for Kwanza.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

First of all look at today's dilbert to gain some real perspective.
He's been waxing philosophical recently. Yesterday's was also spot on.

One of my children took Huckleberry Finn out of the library in Hebrew. I told her she couldn't read it.
There is just no possible way that Hebrew can do justice to Mark Twain. I read the first paragraph out loud in both Hebrew and English and the translation was worse then laughable. This is the first paragraph from the original
" YOU don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary. Aunt Polly -- Tom's Aunt Polly, she is -- and Mary, and the Widow Douglas is all told about in that book, which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before."
It's like trying to translate Uncle Remus into Hebrew, you lose 99% of the book because there are no words in Hebrew corresponding to the lack of good English that they use.

Maybe Harry Potter can be translated, but whoever even thought about translating anything that Mark Twain ever wrote should be hung from the nearest tree. That is just pure vandalism. I'm trying to get my eldest to read more in English now. We are slowly learning it together and she's making good progress. Number 2 just started lower case letters and numbers 3,4 and 5 have to learn to read in Hebrew before I will start them on English.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Pesach is coming.

Rafi G, if you're reading this - how much does it cost to buy a cow and shecht it? For those who missed the action, you can watch Rafi G (in still pictures) shecht a big red cow.

We had lunch on shabbos with some friends and they were telling us about other friends who went to the neighboring village, bought a sheep for 900 shekel, got it shechted for 100 shekel and had someone cut it up for them for another 100 shekel. They had to kasher it and cut it into meal size portions themselves, but then they got an entire sheep for 1100 shekels. They will hopefully make a shofar out of the horn, a jacket out of the skin and use the wool for clothing.

I think that the best meal comes from an animal that you feel close with. It should have a name, and preferably you should ride it or take it for a walk before you kill it and eat it. The more connected you feel to the animal really adds flavor.

We are currently trying to make plans for Pesach vacation. We have 2 days of chol hamoed for tiyuling and I have taken off work. Some friends (the sheep eaters) are going down to mizpe ramon and staying in a field school (like a youth hostel). Last year we ended up staying in a youth hostel with them after our camp ground flooded and they found us the last rooms in the place.

2 years ago I had an argument with someone as to whether charcoal needed to be kosher for Pesach. I heard from a third party that the posek in Detroit said it did. The star K's website says it does not. It is certainly not fit for a dog to eat, but you are cooking on top of it, so maybe that makes a difference. In any case, the posek I asked said it was fine (I didn't need to negotiate at all). He did tell me I needed a new grill for Pesach, which I completely disagreed with. However, he wouldn't budge from his original position, so I sold my grill and bought a new one (which I put away so it is available this year). The reason I disagreed was because I burnt any chametz that was on my grill (during use). After you burn chametz it ceases to be chametz and therefore you should be able to use it. Unfortunately, I lost that argument though I don't see how you could see it any other way. The mitzva itself is to burn the chametz. ARGH!!

Remember 30 days before the holiday it is appropriate to learn the laws.

A thought from this weeks parsha.
The midrash brings down an incident when Moshe asked the people for donations for the mishkan. The women wanted to donate their copper mirrors.Moshe refused to accept them because he said that the mirrors are objects that women use to make themselves look pretty. They are therefore to be treated as unholy. God spoke to Moshe and said "you are not correct, Moshe. These mirrors are dearer to me then any other donations because the women used them in Egypt so that their husbands would desire them and keep the family bond strong." Moshe accepted the donation of the women and made them into a kiyor, the sink from which the Kohanim washed their hands and feet before doing the avodah.

We can learn a lot from this story. One thing we can learn is that sexuality in Judaism is not only appropriate, but that effort put into keeping you marriage and sex life healthy is very important to God.

A second thing that we can learn from this, that commentaries generally don't bring down (at least I haven't seen it) is that rabbis can be wrong. Moshe could have jumped up and down screaming, "Torah Lo BaShamayim hee" (Torah is not in the heaven, but should be adjudicated by the humans it was given to), he could have said, "That is very nice God, but we are more machmir." But instead he accepted that he was wrong and accepted the gift of the women.

The midrash is teaching us that just because someone is a great person, a big talmid chacham or someone who speaks directly with God doesn't mean that everything he says or thinks is correct. While we have to weigh what great people say very heavily, we still must realize that they are people and not Gods.

The way my dad will look at this is that it took God himself to tell Moshe that he was wrong. The answer to that is look at who told Amram (the leader of that generation) that he was wrong about leaving his wife in wake of the Egyptian slaughter of all newborn males. A little girl.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Stupid Jews

I was speaking with my father-in-law about the story of Korach and he didn't understand how people who saw har sinai could let their personal ambitions get in the way of the obvious.

I thought about this for a little bit and it applies to all of the problems the Jews had beginning in Egypt until the end of the Torah.

Suddenly I had a revelation. Everyone says that Jews today are very smart, a large portion of the leaders of art, science, math... are and have been Jewish. Maybe what happened was the stupid Jews got killed in the stories such as the Golden Calf, the Spies and Korach,... the only gene pool left was the smart Jews and as everyone knows smart jews make other smart jews. This is why we are so afraid of assimilation, we don't want to let stupid genes back into our people. There are some Jews today who are stupid (such as our current PM) and I think that is we call a genetic malfunction.

Another opinion is that this is another case of Woe, for you have listened to the voice of a woman.

Monday, March 12, 2007

We had a very nice shabbos with a lot of hoopla, my parents, in laws, older brother and family, sister amd BIL with family all came up and we made a kiddush in shul for the baby. I gave a nice speech about names and why we gave our child an English name that sounds like the Hebrew name but means something slightly different with an English pronunciation. I didn't want her to think that the one name I gave her was 2 different names, as it is pronounced differently by us and by them. Shabbos was very nice, hopefully one day we'll see the whole family together again. (J22, you left first).

A new phenomenon in the anonymous blog world is occurring, in what might be considered a new evolution of the blog. Anonymous bloggers are generally known to a few select people, such as spouses. As such it is impossible to complain about your spouse or about something you don't want your spouse to know about on your own blog. Shifra wrote about her MIL's dish washing ability at the Muqata, while PyschoToddler went over the conversation he had with his wife about his planned HDTV and XBox 360 on Ask Shifra.

Of course this only works if the people you are complaining about don't read the other blogs that you can write on. Otherwise you will need a new anonymous name for your anonymous self. It only gets more confusing.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

anonymous blogging

For those of you following the blogging lawsuit against Orthomom demanding her secret identity because an anonymous commenter called the plaintiff a bigot and anti-semite. (BTW the woman is Jewish or black (she has a Jewish name) and it seems to me from the comments I have read she is more anti-Orthodox then anti Jewish though there are those that don't differentiate. It also seems to me that if the Orthodox would put their children in the cesspool public schools then she wouldn't have anything against them either, but I've never heard anything about her aside from the blog. That being said I probably wouldn't vote for her if she ran for a public office that I had the right to vote in.)

I am personally pro anonymity in blogging, though I myself am only a little bit anonymous, most of my readers know who I am. There is real harm that can be done to people via anonymous blogging and posting. For example, Salon.com has a story about female law students who are being anonymously posted about. The postings would probably constitute sexual harassment and would have even been a thought if not for anonymous blogging. These discussions, which often include the full names and pictures of female law students, are generally of a sexual nature and hinder the prospects of these students from getting jobs after they graduate. If a potential employer googles a candidates name and finds a discussion about her breast size or various exploits that will color the way he looks at her, whether or not they are true or not. I feel that censorship has its place and it is the responsibility of the forum administrator to determine if the discussion requires censorship or not.

Censorship is applied here at the Rock of Galilee. I erase any comments that I decide are unfit for my audience and I only post items that I feel are readable. I have erased/modified a number of articles that I have posted because I have agreed with someone who told me they were inappropriate.

Anonymity is important when there is a good reason for no one to know who you are and no one is getting hurt by your comments, for example to vent. There was a blog called reasons I hate my flatmate on which a reason was posted every day until the flatmate moved out. Nobody knew who it was or where in the world they lived. It was completely anonymous and it was good.

In the case of Orthomom's politics, it is possible (she feels it is probable) that she would be victimized if her identity was known. However, she has to be careful to keep an open tone so that she is not sniping at people behind the veil of anonymity. I am not a regular reader of hers, but it seems to me that she has not crossed the line very often. Her commentors have crossed the line on a number of occassions and I feel that it would behoove her to censor her comments.

Government Censorship = Bad.
Self Censorship = Good.

If it is your forum, you are the boss.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

goodbye Julia

Julia Casterton passed away 2 weeks ago and I only found out today. Let us all have a moment of silence in her memory.

Julia was 54 when the angel of death came for her. She was a poet and a teacher and she had touched the lives of a lot of people.

I would like to say that she hadn't touched my life at all, but then I wouldn't be writing about her at all. Ms. Baroque is also feeling a bit down. Please go to her blog, if you have a chance, and leave your condolences. It mentioned that she was dead so I checked the obituary, linked above.
She had 3 husbands, though probably not all of them at the same time.

Julia, Rest in Peace.

I have written a poem in her memory that I am sure she would have appreciated.

Keep it coming, on the wings of a kite
Flying so high till you are out of sight
Like an eagle chasing a lonely sparrow
The skies suddenly seem all tight and narrow
Raining down upon a village so green
ordering the lowest about like a queen
To look up high and continue running
Or sitting on the beach and sunning
Like a turtle trying to just get there
but dragged forcefully to the lions lair
hiding in his green bowl shell hoping for no eviction
The time has passed and the wind has blown
What is will be and soon will be shown
For the end is upon her lying there so sweet
Put into the ground as her creator she'll meet
Down below the poeple still scurry
thinking that they need to hurry
to get somewhere but where that is
not even a little bit of your biz

Goodbye Julia.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

bar mitzva

A Hebrew lesson to start out with:
In Hebrew if you don't know someone (or you do know someone) you should say you do/don't recognize them, otherwise biblical knowledge is implied. The first time I found this out was at a sheva brachos a year ago where I spoke and said I didn't know either the chosson or the kallah and everyone started laughing. But I forgot and said it again.

Our purim fun actually started Wednesday night as we headed down to Jerusalem for a Taanis Esther bar mitzva. The grandson of one of our regular wartime writers, Doc's Wife, was flying in from Toronto with his family to accept his place in Judaism. It is very appropriate and symbolic to accept the yoke of mitzvos in Israel, where God expected us to do those mitzvos. The first time that you say in birchas hamazon (and it counts), "Thank you God for giving our fathers a fine, good and wide land" should be in that fine and good land.

Wednesday evening and Thursday morning we spent with family, and even saw the new baby whose bris was on Purim morning. Thursday afternoon at 2:00 PM the festivities started. 2000 years ago on that day our ancestors in Iran were crying about what Haman wanted to do to us. In reality they were crying over the bais hamikdash, the Jewish Temple that was destroyed by Nevuchadnezar, king of Bavel. We stayed with the program and the same line of thought and went to the place where they are actively working to bring back the bais hamikdash, the Temple Mount Institute. They are hard at work building all of the vessels used in the Temple according to their specs and will actually be kosher for use in the third temple. We saw a number of presentations and heard the explanations of how it all comes together.
After that we headed down to the kotel, the wailing western wall, standing in sorrow with a gold dome over its head. We headed underneath the plaza into the tunnels and heard the story of the wall and walked alongside its entire width. Apparently the reason we are allowed to go up on part of the Temple Mount today is because when Herod enlarged the temple plaza he forgot to perform the holiness ceremony and it was left bereft of holiness (for our benefit). My chavrussa, the boys uncle, gave the tour which was mostly excellent, and some of it just very good.
We had to wait until it was fully dark outside before finishing the fast and we davened maariv at the kotel. As the stars came out, the bar-mitzva boy came of age and he lead the tefilla (probably very well, though it was very hard to hear him).
After a full day of bar-mitzvaing him, it was finally time for the celebration and we headed up to the Cardo for a fun and delicious meal. The boy and his father made a siyum on mesechas megilla (very appropriate for Taanis Esther, I'll be finishing it in a couple days myself). We then donned togas, as is appropriate at the Cardo restaurant, and ate. The Cardo restaurant is a very interesting place where you can dress in costume, eat good food and play with the various ancient Greek accessories lying around. There is a greek helmet and a large (sharp) sword. There were axes and shields...

The children made a spice bag for havdala, they actually beat the ingredients with a wooden stick until they were fine enough, while the adults watched a video presentation on the history of the bais hamikdash.

After all was done we headed back to our northern village, getting in just after midnight. Shabbos is another story as we continued celebrating the bar mitzva. I sold aliyahs in shul, in what seems to have become a custom. I was expecting them to ask someone else because I don't speak the worst Hebrew anymore, but what can you do. They certainly had what to laugh at. Hopefully that will be in another post.

I thought the father's name was very interesting, in Hebrew it means either (according to Babylon) Slow God, Sluggish God, Leisurely God, Laggardly God, Phlegmatic God, ... (and a lot of other interesting possible pronouns.) When I met him, he was very excited to finally meet the Rock of Galilee and I was excited that I actually had a reader I didn't know.
Remember, if any of our readers are planning a simcha in Israel it is appropriate to invite the Rock of Galilee family.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Talk about an exhausting Purim and I didn't even have a bit to drink. It's a good thing Purim sheni is coming up soon for those of us who were driving on regular Purim. We know about Purim sheni because of a gezera shava between the 15th of Nissan and the 14th of Adar. As everyone knows, gezera shava can be one off.

Starting from the end of our Purim, we somehow arrived safely after a thoroughly exhausting day. The last Purim thing we did was give Shalach Manos to Jameel's brother-in-law. Rumor had it that Jameel was spotted in the village where we were eating so we rushed over after we finished the meal with our shalach manos and digital camera to see if maybe he removed the big yellow smiley face for Purim. He must have heard the paparazzi was coming and he left 5 minutes earlier. The guy who answered the door was Jameel's brother-in-law so I gave him the mishloach manos and wished him a happy Purim.

The seuda was great. My wife made EssigFleish (which means eat meat in yiddish) a combination of meatballs and a stringy meat roast cooked together. My sister made spicy steak poppers that were delicious. If you want to try it, post on her blog asking for a date (boys only). If you make it to the third date you may even get it cooked for you. (Past performance is no indication of future results.) There was plenty of other food going on, but those were the highlights. I successfully passed the merlot challenge when I was easily able to tell the difference between Petit Sira and Merlot, though that was the only thing I had to drink :-(.

Before the seuda we spent some quality time with a friend from high school (and his family) who was dressed as charvorna. I had to give 2 shalach manos according to the law so before heading over to his house I went over to fellow blogger Rafi G's house with a basket. He isn't so hard to find. Just drive around his village asking people where Rafi's house is. Everyone knows him. (In Hebrew you would say "Aifoa Rafi?" But since nobody there speaks Hebrew they would just look at you blankly)

By this time we were all quite exhausted. The children could barely stand and I was driving with my eyes closed. (don't worry, we have the new auto pilot system in our car.) They weren't ready for us at the seuda so we decided to go deliver our mishloach manos. I had planned on giving 3, which ended up being good because the last one wasn't delivered until after Purim was over, so it didn't count. I had thought about going hiking because there are some caves in the area that we haven't been in yet, but when I suggested it my children gave signs of revolt.

My brother's kid's bris was a lot of fun. It was a multi-cultural affair which included the great uncle singing piyutim or something and everyone getting a leaf.I think the leaf was to symbolize the fact that God gave Adam a leaf to cover himself when he realized he was naked and its a sign that this baby should not walk around uncovered. The baby was given a fairly settlery type of name which might have deep kabbalistic meaning. The first name is actually a biblical name and is mentioned in the birchat Yaakov for Yehuda. The second name is also mentioned in the Torah in a number of places. My family, Airtime's family, my sister and the father of the baby were the only ones who came dressed for Purim in costumes, which the mother of the baby had said was appropriate, and the grandmother of the baby wanted to know if we were dressed that way because we had just been on a tiyul.

We made it to Shacharis in Modiin and my children were very excited because was davened in the shul where the Macabees heard the Megilla (or somewhat close by). To get there on time, we left our village at 5:05 AM. The plan had actually been to leave at 5AM, but due to some compromising we were 5 minutes late. Those 5 minutes were critical as we got to the shul exactly 5 minutes late. But still 30 minutes before megilla.

We missed our community Purim party because we were planning on waking up at 4:30 to leave. We ended up setting the alarm clock for 4:35. While I was sad to miss the Purim party I was happy that I didn't fall asleep on the road. My dear wife brought along a large hot chocolate in a Dunkin Donuts travel mug, so I would survive the trek.

I drank coffee in Modiin and it was horrible.

Today, Shushan Purim, I'm back at work. I'll leave the pre Purim story for another time.