Monday, July 30, 2007

Noah, Why Now?

Everyone else has something to say about Dr. Noah Feldman's article Orthodox Paradox, if only to show how we have all taken his trolling bait. I haven't seen this one yet, though:

Something that has been bubbling in the back of my head - if Dr. Feldman was losing his faith while attending Yale Law in the mid-1990s, if he was already dating his wife in 1998*, when the 10th-Reunion incident happened...

Why now? Why, another 9 years after the incident that in theory inspired his anger at Orthodoxy, or 12-15 years after he started losing his faith, did he feel sufficiently angry at the Modern Orthodox community to write this article full of half-truths** and manipulation, which seems designed to make Modern Orthodoxy look bad to the outside world? What made him lash out, after nine years of not responding to the apparent slight?

* if he graduated Harvard in 1992, he must have graduated Maimo in 1988.
** talking about Goldstein and Amir, but eliding the paroxysms of self-doubt and self-examination that the Modern Orthodox community went through in the wake of these two terrible incidents, leaving the impression that Modern Orthodoxy somehow approves and/or leads to such behavior.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Transgressive Thinking

My chavrusa, Stu Feldhamer, gave the Pirke Avos shiur this morning in shul, talking about Mishnah 3:15. These are my thoughts on the mishnah, inspired by the discussion that ensued.

"Rabbi Elazar of Modin said, one who desecrates sacred objects, one who scorns the appointed times, one who whitens the face of his fellow in public, one who undoes the circumcision, or one who interprets the Torah not according to Jewish law -- even if he has Torah [study] and good deeds, he has no share in the World to Come." (translation mine)

Note that there are five categories here, unlike the usual three which correspond to (following Maharal and Wessely) the mishna at the beginning of the book "on three things does the world stand - Torah, service and charity", corresponding to the self (one's Torah learning), the Divine (one's divine service), and one's relations with others (charity meaning that we interact with even those beneath us). What ties these five together?

Well, we can group them loosely into the three categories:

Self: interpreting the Torah

Divine: holy things, festivals, circumcision

Others: whitening the face

but that seems a bit forced. Perhaps we should look for a common thread. First off, what is "whitening the face"? It's usually interpreted as "embarrass", but that doesn't gibe with the usual literary readings of emotions. One turns red-faced with embarrassment or shame, but one blanches at a shock. The former is linked to rising blood pressure, the latter to a drop in blood pressure, such as leads to fainting.

It seems to me that the common thread here is "transgressing the boundaries". Judaism is nothing if not a series of distinctions: holy/profane, light/dark, Sabbath/weekday, Jew/non-Jew, I/Thou, man/God.

Each of these categories transgresses against one of these distinctions:

1) disgracing the holy - treating holy objects as if they were profane, mundane. Transgressing against human/divine distinction.

2) scorning the appointed times - making the Sabbath and Festivals no different than any other day. Transgresses the distinctions of time.

3) whitening the face - behaving in a shocking manner, disregarding the boundaries between me and you - transgressing the personal, showing no respect for the sensibilities of the other.

4) undoing the circumcision - removing the only mark of a Jewish man that remains even when naked, as King David said with relief when he realized he still had one mitzva object on him in the bathhouse. Transgresses the distinction between Jew and non-Jew, there is nothing special about being a Jew.

5) interpreting Torah against halacha - permitting the forbidden, transgressing the rule of law, making a law unto oneself.

One gets one's portion in the World to Come unless one violates certain sins, most of which have to do with belief in God and one's relations with one's fellow man (see Rambam Hilchot Teshuvah chapter 3, also Mishnah Sanhedrin chapter 10). These five categories similarly express transgressions of the boundaries which define our lives as Jews.

Stu then read the Tiferes Yisroel's comment on this mishnah, which expresses a similar sentiment, perhaps in part responding to the Reform Judaism that was then in its most radical period (1840s; the volume on Nezikin was published in 1845).

One who desecrates the Holies, does not recognize the existence of God - he regards holy and profane as the same thing.

One who scorns the appointed times, does not recognize God's influence in the world, His continuing (throughout time) sustenance of the world.

One who whitens the face of his fellow, does not recognize that Man was created in the image of God (see Avot, Mishnah 3:18 - beloved is Man in that he was created in the image of God). He sees no difference between man and animal.

One who undoes the circumcision, sees nothing special about being Jewish, disregards the statements that we were chosen for a special mission in this world, because of our willingness to work with God and accept His Torah.

One who interprets the Torah to rule against accepted Law, does not believe in the existence or authority of the Oral Torah.

Consider the innovations of Reform Judaism in the 1840s, as well as the depredations of assimilation after the Enlightenments:

+ moving worship from Saturday to Sunday (scorning the appointed times);

+ baptizing one's children for social or political gain, such as Disraeli's parents did, or Mendelssohn's children (undoing the circumcision, mark of the covenant with Abraham);

+ eliminating most of the "ceremonial law" and arrogating the right to interpret the Torah to make it compatible with a non-observant lifestyle.

The others may reflect the sins of other periods.

At any rate, an interesting Mishnah, one that leaves itself open to appropriate readings for all ages, unfortunately.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

From the Ashes - Review

My shul showed the Aish HaTorah movie "From the Ashes" this Tisha B'Av. I saw most of it, but walked out near the end - I was disgusted.

1) R' Weinberg was inspired by the physical holocaust to counteract the spiritual holocaust. Like the decline of Orthodox Judaism had anything to do with the Holocaust? (Leaving aside the theory that the Holocaust was the punishment for Reform, a theory I find morally difficult).

But the movie was bizarre. Clips of R' Weinberg talking about himself, or other people talking about him and the yeshiva, and how great they are, looking for all the world like an ad for Aish HaTorah - come to our yeshiva - alternating with clips of Holocaust scenes narrated by some guy with a South African accent (some British colony or another). Why the pictures of the Holocaust, except that it's a Tisha B'Av movie, and of course we have to bring up pictures of the Holocaust?

And of course, R' Weinberg implies that he invented kiruv - "bemakom she'ein ish, yishtadel lihyot ish" - implying that nobody else was doing kiruv when he started Aish. Riiight. Aish HaTorah started in 1974. He didn't even start the first kiruv yeshiva in Israel - that was the Diaspora Yeshiva, started in 1964 by my wife's cousin, R' Mordechai Goldstein shlit"a. And where did R' Goldstein learn about kiruv? Working alongside R' Shlomo Carlebach z"l in Chabad in the 1950s. (See "Returning to Tradition" by Dr. M. Herbert Danzger)

The whole thing was very self-serving, and not so interesting in terms of actual kiruv.

2) Discovery Seminars. Someone talks about hearing the guy who invented Discovery, "logical scientific proofs that Torah is Misinai" and wanting to give seminars himself.

That has to be a reference to Torah Codes, which are ever so much garbage. There are two aspects of Torah Codes, both of which are garbage.

1) the coincidences found in letter-skip sequences. That's just data cherry-picked for impressiveness.

2) the minimal skip distances for equidistant letter sequences, that which was published in "Statistical Science". One has to be a professional statistician to really grasp that. I know mathematically sophisticated people who have been taken in by it. I also know frum statisticians who have poked several holes in the argument. Torah is from Sinai - granted, the Rambam says it's a fundamental of our faith. Skip-letter sequences exist, and are cute. But the one doesn't prove the other.

3) R' Weinberg takes his rabbinical students to the death camps to impress upon them that they have to be as scientific, as efficient, as the Nazi killing machine. They tried various methods before coming up with the most efficient gas-and-crematorium method. So too kiruv professionals have to search for the best way. Why? Because he looked around after some years, and realized, that no matter how much success Aish HaTorah had, kiruv was losing the war for Jewish souls - so he needed a new source of inspiration.

That was the point at which I left. If you want to compare efficiency and single-minded devotion for kiruv professionals, you should compare to Chabad, that changed itself from an inner-directed small contemplative sect before WWI into a huge international kiruv machine, under the Sixth and Seventh Rebbes. Chabad has got to be the most successful kiruv operation out there. But of course, to the yeshivishe velt, Chabad is off the radar. So what's left? Nazis.

R' Weinberg tried to walk the fence on this one, calling the Nazis "monsters", but saying that his kiruv professionals have to be as efficient as the monsters. On the other hand, during the segments on the Holocaust, he & the narrator spoke about Nazi deception, to get people to leave their homes, to get them to go into the railroad cars. But here is R' Weinberg, using deceptive tactics (blinding them with the pseudo-science of Torah Codes), in order to bring people into Judaism. Not only does he advise absorbing the efficiency, his program uses their moral failure of deception. Zu Torah vezu sechorah? Isn't the seal of Torah, truth? Or does single-minded devotion to Torah and kiruv justify the means? It doesn't ring true to the Torah with which I was raised.

It bothered me, and I walked out.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


One of my commenters took offense at my use of the word "Lehavdil" to distinguish between yeshivish and the chassidish books that talk about meditation. He seems to have taken it to mean that I put "my" affiliation (misnagdish) as Good, while "his" affiliation (chabad) as Bad. And looking at some posts on the Web, I can see how he took it that way.

However, Lehavdil just means to separate. In its most widely-known context, in the Havdalah prayer, havdalah (hamavdil, in the instance) separates both between equals (light/dark, day/night) and lesser/greater (Shabbat/workweek, Israel/other nations). So the word itself really doesn't denote anything comparative. However, in popular usage, I now see that it does. So I take it out of my post - since I didn't mean to imply anything comparative.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Not Necessarily R' Akiva Eger

All this discussion about the "real" R' Akiva Eger on Hirhurim and OnTheMainLine triggered something for me.

I have the volume in question.

I read and photographed the haskama of R' Akiva Eger to the 1832 Berlin chumash with Mendelssohn's commentary, and it does and doesn't quite mean as much as I think we'd like it to mean. Which is to say, I don't know if Dr. Heinemann sent the full chumash pages to R' Akiva Ginz (Eger). The haskama seems unclear - it says "targumim", which it seems would imply the German as well as the Aramaic, but the haskama seems to be primarily (only?) on Dr. Heinemann's commentary, "Biur LeTalmid".

Here's the title page:

note, RMBMN is R' Moshe ben Menachem Mendel (Mendelssohn).

and the haskamah:

Translation (approximate):

heading: I thought this sufficiently important to give it its own page in this volume.

Peace and blessings to you, perfect in Torah, wise writer my teacher rav Jeremiah Heinemann,

I recently received your nice letter, you should have a palanquin for publishing beautifully the Chumashim, with the translations and Rashi and Tikun Sofrim by R' S.D., and the extra commentary Biur Letalmid, and when you sent me several leaves to show their beauty, and for asking me for a haskamah, what can I do if it is impossible for me to fulfill your request since I never write haskamot on any book, and furthermore, since there is no reason to do so here, if the book is really so good won't everyone see that it is so, and if you're afraid that others will encroach on your borders and reprint the book before your printer sells out, surely one should not suspect any fellow Jew of such "theft of holy things". May God allow you to bring your work into reality. And here I am, one who has subscribed to buy a copy of your book at full price.

I remain, Akiva ben Moshe Ginz Z"L.

This is even more a non-haskamah than the famous one by the Noda beYehuda to R' Naftali Herz Wessely's commentary Yein Levanon on Pirke Avot. That one basically says, "his last book was good, he's a good guy, if he sticks to kosher ideas this book should be good too."

Right-click on the picture, then "View Image" from the menu, to see the high-res version.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sfas Emes Meditation: Spoke vs Said

R' Sokol (my LOR) often describes the comments of the Sfas Emes on Chumash as "meditations". I hadn't read much of the Sfas Emes inside, but found a nice one to say over at Shaleshudis this week in R' Sokol's absence. (how's that for a bit of modern Judeo-English (inside, say over, Shaleshudis). And it really is a meditation, in the sense of Hisbonenus as used by Chabad, or the Nefesh haChaim (i.e., Misnagdim as well as Chassidim).

אחז"ל כל הנביאים נתנבאו בכה אמר ה' מוסיף עליהם משה בזה הדבר. ענין הפרש זה כמו החילוק בין עשרה מאמרות לעשרת הדיברות. כי מאמר היא רק לחוץ להודיע הרצון יהי רקיע. יהי מאורות. ודיבור הוא פנימיות עצם הדיבור. כענין שם מדבר שנקרא האדם מדבר. ולא אומר. כי הדיבור הוא בעצם לא במקרה כמו המאמר. ואמת שזה עצמו ענין החילוק בין זה לכה. כי יש כמה מדריגות בנבואה. ועצם הדיבור מתלבש ומתפשט אח"כ למדריגות אמירה ולכן באמירה כתיב כה ובדיבור זה. לכן כ' וידבר ה' כו' לאמר כי מהדיבור בא אח"כ אמירה. וכן הי' מעלת בנ"י בקבלת התורה שנגלה פנימיות דבר ה' בדיברות יותר מעשרה מאמרות. ומעין זה החילוק בין ימי המעשה שהוא כח עשרה מאמרות שבכל יום הי' בריאה מיוחדת יהי אור. רקיע. ובשבת לא הי' בריאה וכ' ויברך כו' את יום השביעי א"כ הוא בחי' עצם הדיבור. ובכל הימים שכ' ברכה כ' ויברך כו' לאמר כו' וכ' ויברך כו' ויאמר להם כו' פרו ורבו. ובש"ק כתיב ויברך סתם והוא עצם הדיבור. ולכן בשבת ניתנה תורה שהם בחי' עשרת הדיברות כנ"ל. וזהו עצמו שכ' בזוה"ק בשבת דלא אשתכח בי' מזוני מה ברכתא אשתכח כו' אלא שהוא שורש הברכה ע"ש. והוא כנ"ל.

He starts from the first verse in the parasha, then almost free-associates, finding similar ideas to the puzzling bit in the verse, explaining the ideas, finding analogies, etc.

The verse tells us that Moshe spoke to Israel, saying "This is the thing..." He brings the Midrash (Rabbah) telling us that this indicates Moshe's prophecy is greater than other prophets, in saying "This is the thing," rather than "Thus said God" - drawing distinctions between "said" (distancing, offhand) and "spoke" (inner essence of a statement, direct communication); and between "this" - this is the thing, direct to you, and "thus" - the thing was that, and this is how I understand it, indirectly.

He then wanders off to comparing "said/spoke" to the 6 days of creation (created through ten Saying (amarot)), vs. Shabbos, which was directly blessed without an "amar" - so Shabbos becomes the Source of blessing for the rest of the week. Again saying vs. direct communication. This then leads back to the ultimate Statements - the Ten Statements, Aseres haDibros, which were communicated directly to all Israel.

I would expand a bit and say that in Creation, the physical world was naturally distant, disassociated from the infinite G-d, necessitating Amirah - at a distance; while at Sinai, G-d was creating a direct communication of His Will to all of us, hence the need for Dibur.

Retaining a meditative experience long enough to write it down is really something, to share in the subjective experience of a great mind.

(note: text pasted from DBS)

Friday, July 13, 2007

More on R' Greenberg's Theology

My second blog-post ever focused on the neo-Reconstructionist theology expressed by R' Irving (Yitz) Greenberg. Having recently subscribed to Tradition, I find that a zealot of the 13 Foundations of Maimonides, R' Dr. David Berger, wrote at the same time, a review expressing a similar position. In this month's issue, he defends his position; unfortunately, both the review and the letter are only available to subscribers.

Some excerpts that address this issue (most of the review addresses the main point of the book, Jewish-Christian relations):

In the wake of the Holocaust, the next stage has arrived, and it is startling in its radicalism. God, says Greenberg, has lost the moral right to command the Jewish people to live in accordance with the high standard required by the covenant. After His failure to protect the covenantal people from the Nazi onslaught, any such demand would be “inherently abusive . . . illegitimate, and therefore null and void, because it [would] only expose the Jews to greater danger” (p. 26). Nonetheless, some Jews so love God that they have voluntarily chosen to maintain the covenantal relationship, which now constitutes the highest level of commitment precisely because it is the product of a free choice. At this mature stage of the covenant, the partnership between God and man is that of equals (p. 188).

One wonders if Greenberg, who is committed to a halakhic way of life, means all of this quite literally. He never descends from the heights of rhetoric to the level of discourse that would actually address the consequences of this position.
Whether or not Greenberg is entirely serious, even a rhetorical rejection of the binding authority of the Torah would be understood by any fair-minded observer as a prima facie abandonment of Orthodox Judaism, so that complaints of marginalization by the Orthodox establishment...

R' Alan Yuter offers a different reading of R' Greenberg, in a letter in the current issue:

If however we mean that belief is difficult to sustain after the Holocaust, and the covenant’s brokenness refers to a human inability to measure up to the Divine mandate and we understand R. Greenberg’s prose metaphorically, poetically, and generously, we can quibble with the idiom, but not the intent. He is, after all, an observant Jew. One does not consistently obey commandments out of thoughtless inertia or mindless nostalgia.

R' Berger defends his position with more quotes from R' Greenberg's book describing the spiritual odyssey that led him to his position.

For my part, I have trouble with R' Yuter's alternate explanation, as it, too, appears to be even less Judaic than R' Berger's reading of R' Greenberg. The closest parallel that comes to mind is Galatians 2:16, which I shall not quote here.

* * *

Last year, R' Greenberg wrote an article for Modern Judaism expressing a somewhat different viewpoint, it seems to me somewhat closer to Reform. At some point I'd like to write a post examining the article more closely.

Whatever the conclusion, R' Greenberg explores interesting ideas. As one of the foremost public figures associated with left-wing Modern Orthodoxy, and a prominent advocate of the halachically observant lifestyle, despite his theology, what he says is always important.

Perhaps we laypersons should not try to understand the theology of the Great Minds of the era, but they write, and publish - shall we not read and learn?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Revisionism and the Aruch HaShulchan

A very interesting book review of the new Friedman Edition "Oz Vehadar" of the Aruch HaShulchan (AhS) came to my attention (hat tip, RSBA of Melbourne, via Areivim). While it's always nice to see another major halachic work re-typeset, to avoid the broken and missing letters that always arise from the photo-lithographic reprint process, the accompanying notes and front-matter reflect the interests of the new publisher, often in surprising ways.

The new edition was published about a year ago; the original work appeared in fascicles between 1883 and 1908, commenting on the entire Shulchan Aruch (a few sections are still missing). The famous Mishneh Berurah (MB) was also published in the same time frame, 1884 to 1907, covering only the Orach Chaim section of the Shulchan Aruch. The time was certainly ripe for new compendia of halachic development, as the last major commentary to summarize then-current opinion had been the Ba'er Heitev, which summarized halachic commentators between the time of the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) in the 1550s, and his time in the late 1700s. The socioeconomic shifts caused by the twin challenges of the Enlightenment and Chasidism made a new halachic summary necessary.

Since the AhS covered the entirety of contemporary halacha, and the author was a known city-rabbi, rather than a non-ordained genius in a yeshiva, for many years the AhS was taken to be authoritative, inasmuch as the author was used to dealing with practical halacha. Since the Second World War, however, there has been a concerted, if subtle, effort among many Roshei Yeshiva to promote the MB as the primary halachic work for daily life. There are pictures of prominent Roshei Yeshiva carrying the MB with the title prominently displayed, to convey the impression that the work is endorsed by the Rosh Yeshiva, and therefore should be authoritative for his students.

The Friedman Edition of the Aruch haShulchan takes a clear position in this battle for halachic dominance, according to the unnamed reviewer (the review was published in a journal of the Hesder yeshivah in Kiryat Arba [Chevron], by "the editors") - for the MB and against the AhS.

In republishing the AhS, the editors at Machon Oz VeHadar have subtly attacked the credibility of the work itself. They include a new commentary, "Piskei Mishneh Berurah", at the bottom of each page, pointing out where the MB's rulings disagree with those of the AhS. The editor is quite clear in his introduction, telling us that he included this commentary "so that we should know what the final ruling is" - implying that the AhS does not have the authority to be a final decisor of Halachah.

In fact, the texts of the two works indicate that the author of AhS had seen the MB when he wrote his sections on Orach Chaim, after the MB was published, and explicitly disagreed with the MB on a number of issues. See the review for examples. Usually we follow "halacha kebatrai", the later decisor wins, because he has seen the earlier work and takes it into account. Not so here, according to this editor - the earlier work wins, presumably because of the "righteousness" (as opposed to rightness?) of the author. Other books, e.g. current editions of the MB, include "piskei this and that", other people's rulings on the same issues, but they are generally printed in the back, and are the work of later decisors, who again, saw the MB and took issue. They are not examples of an earlier work, with which the AhS disagrees, being presented as trumping the later work.

The new edition goes further in its revisionism, into plagiarism.

The new AhS includes a 23-page biography of R' Yechiel Michl Halevi Epstein (RYME), the author of AhS. The unnamed biographer cites the Mekor Baruch, R' Baruch Halevi Epstein's biography of his father, RYME. However, much of the material is taken from, nay, copied from, two other books on the sages of the turn of the 20th Century: Sarei haMeiah (Centurions), by R' Yehuda Leib Maimon, a student of RYME, and MiVolozhin Ad Yerushalayim, by R' Meir Bar-Ilan, grandson of RYME.

The reviewer brings five clear examples of plagiarism from these works, and lists eight more. Quoting is not plagiarism, if one cites one's sources, so what overriding moral issue brought this unnamed biographer to engage in plagiarism? Fear of being associated with Zionists. The authors of the two latter works were "Mizrachistim", the antecedent party of today's Religious Zionists in Israel. It's not stated explicitly, but other material in the biography leans that way. For example, while it is known that RYME was anti-Zionist, he wrote one tract against the Zionists. R' Maimon reports that it was only the one tract, and that RYME regretted it afterwards. He was cordial with various known Mizrachists.

The unnamed biographer, however, paints a different picture. He tells us that RYME attended a Zionist conference to rail at the attendees, and that he made his opinion known "at every streetcorner." This does not sound like someone who had cordial, even friendly relations with "all the leaders of the religious Zionist movement," in R' Maimon's words.

Similar elision of Zionist sources occurs in other recent works where the author hopes for a large Chareidi market. The editor of the Frankel Rambam, when asked why he did not include any references to R' Avraham Y. Kook's Shabbat HaAretz, a major early-20th Century work on Shemitta, has allegedly replied that he did not want to alienate the chareidim who might buy his books, while the religious-zionists would buy it regardless. (source: a private email list) The reviewer notes this lacuna in the Frankel Rambam.

As in Lawrence Kaplan's article on Revisionism and the Rav, groups today feel free to change the nature of works and writers of old, to fit a contemporary agenda. In view of the diversity of opinion that has characterized the Torah world for millenia, we are poorer for it.

UPDATE (10 pm): Nachum comments at Seforim that the new edition doesn't include the material on Hilchot Nedarim published as the 9th volume, edited by R' Dr. Simcha Fishbane. Does this imply that the Bar-Ilan family, as well as R' Fishbane, favor the existence of the State of Israel? R' Fishbane has written about both the MB (his dissertation, Method and Meaning in the Mishnah Berurah, Ktav, 1991) and the AhS.

UPDATE 7/15: The author of the review has revealed himself - R' Eitam Henkin, son of H"R YH Henkin.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Independence Day: Who We Were

This post at Wetmachine's Tales of the Sausage Factory (as in "you don't want to know what goes into sausage or legislation"), normally a great blog on telecom policy, is a terrific read for Independence Day.

It's about Asser Levy, one of the first Jews in Pieter Stuyvesant's Nieuw Amsterdam, who created, through lawsuits, the fundamentals of religious freedom in America: that there be no establishment of state religion, that citizens be allowed to freely exercise their religion; and that members of all faiths are equally citizens of this Land.

Asser Levy is today commemorated by a street in Manhattan.

Independence Day: Who We Are

Food for thought, on this 231st Anniversary of our Nation’s declaration of Independence from the British Empire

* * *

First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

John Wayne, an ultra-conservative, on hearing of JFK’s election in 1960:

“I didn’t vote for him but he’s my president, and I hope he does a good job.”

George Will, conservative pundit, 11 January 2001:

Some presidents' names become adjectives--Lincolnian gravity, Rooseveltian reassurance, Kennedyesque charisma, Nixonian deviousness, Reaganesque leadership. To understand the meaning of ``Clintonian,'' parse this from a 1997 news conference: ``I don't believe you can find any evidence of the fact that I have changed government policy solely because of a contribution.''

It is reasonable to believe he was a rapist 15 years before becoming president, and that as president he launched cruise missiles against Afghanistan (a nearly empty terrorist camp), Sudan (a pharmaceutical factory) and Iraq to distract attention from problems arising from the glandular dimension of his general indiscipline. As president he was fined $90,000 for contempt of court, and there is no reasonable doubt that he committed and suborned perjury, tampered with witnesses and otherwise obstructed justice. In the words of Richard A. Posner, chief judge of the 7th Circuit, Clinton's illegalities ``were felonious, numerous and nontechnical'' and ``constituted a kind of guerrilla warfare against the third branch of the federal government, the federal court system.''

Clinton is not the worst president the republic has had, but he is the worst person ever to have been president.

Keith Olbermann, liberal pundit, 3 July 2007:

This President decides that he, and not the law, must prevail.

I accuse you, Mr. Bush, of lying this country into war.

I accuse you of fabricating in the minds of your own people, a false implied link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.

I accuse you of firing the generals who told you that the plans for Iraq were disastrously insufficient.

I accuse you of causing in Iraq the needless deaths of 3,586 of our brothers and sons, and sisters and daughters, and friends and neighbors.

I accuse you of subverting the Constitution, not in some misguided but sincerely-motivated struggle to combat terrorists, but instead to stifle dissent.

I accuse you of fomenting fear among your own people, of creating the very terror you claim to have fought.

I accuse you of exploiting that unreasoning fear, the natural fear of your own people who just want to live their lives in peace, as a political tool to slander your critics and libel your opponents.

I accuse you of handing part of this republic over to a Vice President who is without conscience, and letting him run roughshod over it.

Aaron Sorkin, movie writer/director, 1995, in the mouth of his fictional President, Andrew Shepherd:

America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the "land of the free".

Francis Scott Key, “The Star-Spangled Banner”:

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation,
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our Trust"

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Gratuitous Numerical Post

Thank you, my thirty loyal readers and others, for bringing us to this milestone of Ten Thousand Hits. I'd like to thank the First Time Page Views, the Returning Visitors, and all the other statistical categories. I must thank Blogger (hrrmm, Google) for providing this no-cost server for me to use as my soapbox for esoteric and arcane maunderings. And I must certainly thank the Eibershter, the Chonein HaDaas, for giving us Daas, Binah and Haskel.

Hmm. My old Rosh Yeshiva was a Haskel (R' Lookstein shlit"a). There are Binahs in this world, e.g. my parents' friend Bina Presser. Does anyone know people named Daas?