Monday, May 07, 2007


My sister called me with an ethical question the other day. When I read Dilbert today, I felt that Scott Adams was listening in.
We had a very nice bonfire on Lag B'Omer. I didn't want to join the community bonfire because I didn't want to fight with my kids when they were done and everyone else was staying up longer. So we built a nice little bonfire on the edge of our cliff next to a neighbor's house. We had all the right ingredients for a good bonfire: marshmallows, hot dogs, potatoes and onions. The kids actually lasted longer then I expected and we left the bonfire shortly after 11.
The traditional/chareidi approach to lag b'omer is that Torah is light and rashbi represented torah so that is why we have a bonfire and he was such a tzaddik that there was never a rainbow during his life (to signify that the world should be destroyed, if not for god's promise). That seems to be a classic case of anti-zionistic revisionist history. The reason the romans forbade learning Torah upon punishment of death is because the leading rabbis at the time, especially Rabbi Akiva, were teaching Toras Eretz Yisroel, which was that only Jews should have governance of Israel and should not be subjected to foreign rule. When Rashbi was heard saying that everything the romans did was for themselves, he was not just talking politics. Rashbi was actively involved in the war effort. In other words, Lag B'Omer is a Yom HaAtzmaut type day in which we celebrate the battle to throw the Romans out of our land. Bonfires were used as military signals and the bow and arrow was the weapon of the day. Obviously this doesn't fit into the hareidi world view even though Rabbi Akiva and rashbi are both considered role models by the hareidi institutions.

Today I signed up for the shmita fruit and vegetable program. There is a 50 shekel registration fee and you get the hilchos shmitta book upon registration. Then every month during shmita they charge you 50 shekels and send you a 50 shekel coupon for use in their store. The food that they will have will be:
a) from the 6th year
b) otzer bais din
c) stuff grown not in or on the ground
Everything will be labeled as to exactly what type of food it is.

They have committed to having food within a 1 hour drive of us, though they believe that there will be a store in our village.

I believe the way otzer bais din works is that our farmers sell their fields to bais din and then bais din pays them to pick the fruit. Bais din then sells the fruit for the cost of picking it. The fruits have kedushas shviis on them and therefore you have to read the accompanying book to figure out exactly how to deal with them. It will be a fun and educational year. We have almonds, pecans, lemons, pomegranates and grapes if anyone wants to come during shmita and eat our fruit. We have 2 new cherry trees as well, but they will be orlah until the year after shmita, so you will not be allowed to take from them. I believe the law is that I have to put up a warning sign to protect people from eating orlah cherries.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

war report

We have a spot for our bonfire Saturday night. I cleared away the weeds yesterday with the kids and it should be a nice evening. My cousin is coming up to visit because she wants to be part of the happening at Meron on Saturday night. 300,000 people gather on the little hill to celebrate the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai and the loss of the Bar Kokhba rebellion. This is a holiday that I have never understood.

The Winograd report is causing quite a stir in the political arena. I haven't finished reading it yet. I'm only up to page 17, which is the middle of describing the mandate of the commission. The report started ff with a pasuk from Yirmiyahu and a dedication to a girl who died in the war. Olmert has decided to stick it out instead of resigning. His claim is that he will learn the report and implement it. As far as I understand the report says that the leaders are egomaniacs who don't know how to lead and are too involved in their petty self-interests to be of any benefit to the country. I think the only way for that to be implemented after it is learned is if the entire Knesset is hung and new decent people are brought in.

Tzippy Livni, the 2nd in command asked the prime minister to quit so that she could be in charge. I heard an interview with someone who said that she couldn't quit because if she did there would be no one to take the prime minister's place when he resigned. That is the sad state of affairs.
Meanwhile the defense minister is making comments in the press, like , "wow. I did a great job" and completely ignoring what was written in the report.

There is a huge protest in Tel Aviv tonight asking for the resignation of those who the report calls "miserable failures." I'm not going because I didn't know about it until just a bit ago and I am busy tonight. Also I don't think he'd quit if all of Israel asked him to. He is insisting on being thrown out.

Azmi Bishara is being investigated for giving Hizballah information during the war. While we don't know the exact details and we are sure that most things mentioned in the media are not true, he did flee the country and has no intention of returning. With that, Balad will probably pick up another seat or 2 in the next elections.

Rhonda is in town, we haven't seen her in forever. She is coming to visit us with her new husband Nachman of Breslov and we are very excited to see them.

Last night I made a shiva telephone call to a friend who's mother very unexpectedly died in the US. I felt I should call, so I did. I didn't want to ask him how he was doing, because I knew how he was doing - lousy. I didn't want to ask him how his wife and kids were because the focus of shiva is on him and it isn't a social call. I couldn't exactly say, "man, this just sucks." Basically I said, I'm sorry I couldn't be there to comfort you in person and I said the traditional phrase of comfort, "May God comfort you amongst the rest of the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem." and then I hung up.