Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Eilu Elohecha Yisrael

Just when you think Jonathan Rosenblum can't sink any lower, he does. Man never fails to disappoint. What a disgrace. What a shame.

Now, it is possible (likely, even) that he's been living in a cocoon his entire Jewish life, and is thus simply ignorant of some basic facts that exist outside of the nutshell in which he is bound. In fact, that's the best explanation of much of his blather, and one reason I used the word "shame." But, of course, if that's true, then he has no business writing columns on current events. Either way, like I said, a disgrace.

(Full disclosure: "Dr. Rakeffet" is quite close to my family.)

"I'm from the government and I'm here to help you."

The scariest words in the English language, according to Ronald Reagan.

Well, this has to be one of the funniest things I've seen in a while:

City and state transportation officials made their pitch to Transportation
Secretary Mary Peters, hoping to become one of five cities to get hundreds of
millions of dollars in federal aid for traffic-easing experiments.

City transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said federal support was crucial to enacting the congestion pricing plan, variations of which have already been
launched in London and Singapore.

Ah, Singapore, that bastion of freedom.

So let me get this clear. We (Of course, "we." Where do you think the federal government gets the money from?) are supposed to pay for the "privilege" of...having to pay more? I though this was supposed to raise money, not that it would have been right to do it even if so. Instead, we pay twice, for no real return outside another bizarre Bloomberg social experiment. (Don't smoke- no, smoke, and pay more to smoke, your money goes to anti-smoking causes. Take the train- no, drive, pay more, it goes to...the trains.)

By the way, what happened to federalism? (That old thing.) I thought Albany had rejected the whole idea.

Oh, I just got it: Get the feds (i.e., us) to pony up a hundred million or so, and the pork hounds in Albany will line up to vote. Money, that's what they understand. That, and this perverse desire for public and governmental acceptance that the homosexuals seem determined to force on the rest of us. The budget may be months late, but the gays get their way, every time, the Normal-American public be damned.

Monday, June 25, 2007

By the way...

I'm not one for conspiracies, as my dear brother will tell you, but when it's one person, I get suspicious:

"Deng and Murdoch have been accused of suppressing articles about her in the press."

That's from a Wikipedia article about Rupert Murdoch's wife. And what's the source of the single major article cited in that piece, the one the other linked pieces all seem to refer back to- what looks like the only real article ever written on Wendi Deng? Why, the Wall Street Journal, of course.


A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words...

...and I can't find a link to it. Well, it won't take a thousand words to describe: In today's Metro newspaper, there's a picture captioned "Immigration reform supporters carry a composite of numerous flags from across the world as they march on Hollywood Boulevard..."

Of course, being a flag nut, I examined the picture closely. The "composite" is a long cloth made up of twenty-four flags, and although it extends past the picture, that's probably it. The US flag is top and center. (Nice of them!) And the caption-writer's idea of "across the world" is a bit odd, as every other flag- every one!- comes from south of our border. ("The continent south of the continent on which we live," as a friend of mine puts it. Sherlock Holmes was a bit more concise- but I'll let you find that one.) Apart from a handful (Haiti, Brazil, Suriname, Jamaica) they're all Spanish-speaking. (That's every Spanish-speaking country in this hemisphere plus loyal Puerto Rico, for those of you keeping score at home.)

And that, of course, as John Derbyshire has pointed out, is one of the major criticisms (one of many) of this witless bill. It's not so much immigration as immigration from one particular part of the world- and a whole host of issues arise from that.

Of course, we're supposed to pretend that many colorful Latin flags equal "across the world." We're supposed to pretend that all is bright and happy in Latin America, no racial issues anywhere but in the mean ol' USA. Oh, and we're not supposed to put two and two together reading a piece like this. Assuming you noticed the last name of the victim, and you knew what Juneteenth is...oh, no. Nothing to see here, folks. Move it along, that's it. Have some Kool-Aid.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I'm Brian Fellow!

Well, it's Flag Day. I have a pin in my lapel (good thing I have a jacket), and during an impulse trip to the dentist this morning (yeah, don't ask), I noticed that the hygienist's pick had a flag motif. Yay!

This story had me a little choked up. Isn't it beautiful? And this story, also about a sheep, reminded me of the story about the calf that ran to Yehuda HaNasi, no?

Eh, I love sheep. I think they're adorable. And yummy. Blame it on my name. Here's a non-sheep animal story. This one...it's certainly interesting biologically, historically, sociologically, but I think the whole practice says something a bit negative about identity politics. Ah, probably not. I should be more sentimental about whales- and aboriginal practices, within reason- too, I guess.

Thus endeth Nathan Lamm's Safari Planet. Later!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Well, tomorrow- who knows if I'll be able to blog then?- is Flag Day! Two hundred and thirty years! Whoo-hooooo!

OK, that was the vexillologist in me, bubbling out. Back to laughs and rants...

Eh, let's get the rants out of the way first. It's sad, sometimes, how we think the truth is limited to our own narrow world-view. Every morning, a woman comes to Shacharit to say Kaddish. And if there's no man there saying Kaddish...gevalt! She's limited to the last one, and then some other man has to bellow it out so that, chas v'shalom, we don't hear her. When confronted, the dude who says this informs me, "It's written everywhere! Look it up!"

Errr, no. It's actually written that women used to say Kaddish, alone, for a minyan all the time, until the Jewish world went mad about forty or fifty years ago. (Thanks to my cousin who asked me, with my access to the YU library, to photocopy Joel Wolowelsky's article in Tradition some years back- I made a copy for myself and thus can look it up.) And, of course, leaving halakha aside, there's the simple question of kavod habriot- you think she doesn't notice?

Consider, for example, this sad story. Did it never occur to the narrator to notice that such behavior is likely much more prevalent in more charedi (that is, insular) communities? That Israel has quite a few black or otherwise darker people, and that young Matt may be more comfortable in a more modern setting? Of course not. Our way or back to America, dude!

Anyway. Laugh time. First these two clips, the first of which I found through Failed Messiah. Funny because they're true, eh? (Well, the bit about the rabbis not looking in the first, at least.)

Next, this. I read a bit of Cracked years ago, and now I see they have a site where I'll likely waste much, much time. Absolutely hilarious- check it out if you dare. Ah, the wonders of the world.

Happy Flag Day, friends! Long may it wave!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

D'var Torah! D'var Torah!

My dear sister (who had previously sent an email whose title inspired the very end of this piece) asked me to write out my speech from this Shabbat for her. So it's thanks to her that I'm able to present it here as well. Working a bit off memory, my d'var Torah basically went as follows:

[I omitted an introduction basically lifted from Everett Fox, who points out that the section starting with last week's parsha (one can argue, even going all the way back to the beginning of Shemot) and continuing almost through the end of Bamidbar can be called "the Rebellion Narratives." They even fall into a pattern- people, Moshe's siblings, people, Moshe's cousins, people, Moshe himself. It's around this point that we wish we could reach back 3300 years, grab the Bnei Yisrael by their collective shoulders, and tell them to "Just stop complaining and go to Israel already!" Of course, they'd probably want to reach forward in time and do and say the same thing to us. In any event, this long chain of events makes the sections described below seem even more out of place. I also, alas, wasn't able to work in Bialik's or R' Tzadok HaKohen's view on the subject.]

Right after the incident with the meraglim, the Torah jumps right into a discussion on Korbanot, beginning with the words "Vehaya KiVoachem El HaAretz." To me, that always seemed a bit odd- after all, Hashem just told them they weren't going to Israel. It's almost like He's rubbing it in, so to speak.

But most meforshim give the explanation that, in fact, Hashem is stating this as a Nechama to the Bnei Yisrael. That is, they are worried that not even their kids will make it- what if they mess up too? Therefore, Hashem promises them, that while they, for a specific reason, have to wander, their kids, will, in fact, make it in and get to offer Korbanot. (The Ibn Ezra gives this explanation after also seeing hints to the Averah throughout the remainder of the parsha; Rashi [in most editions] and the Ramban give it as well.)

In fact, I think we can take this a step further: We can see from this that, in fact, the Bnei Yisrael never really stopped longing for Eretz Yisrael and Mitzvot. After all, why else would this be a comfort for them, unless they are comforted by the idea that someone will go up and fulfill Hashem's word? Sure, they were scared by the meraglim's report, maybe said some stupid things for one night- but as soon as they are told they can't go, they go into Aveilut and many, in fact, try to go up anyway. So we think wrong if we think the Bnei Yisrael weren't, at least deep down and usually much more obviously, interested in doing Ratzon Hashem.

This, of course, helps explain why Yirmiyahu, looking back hundreds of years later, sees the era of the Dor HaMidbar as being one in which the Bnei Yisrael were perfectly with Hashem. And, of course, we're told the Dor HaMidbar was the greatest generation! Sure, we may be distracted by all the negative stories, but that's only a small part of the overall picture. (And note, of course, that the Torah skips over thirty-eight years which presumably passed without incident.)

Finally, the Torah itself hints at this by placing the story of the Mekoshesh right after this section. After all, when we think of the Mekoshesh, we think, immediately, of Tzelafchad, because we all know the Midrash that says they were the same person. And, of course, the one thing we know about Tzelafchad is that his daughters were the greatest and ideal example of love for Eretz Yisrael, "Nashim Chovevot Et HaAretz." So the Torah is showing us that the Bnei Yisrael always loved Eretz Yisrael- and we should remember that even though we usually think of this parsha as the one where the Land is rejected, it is also the parsha that contains the words "Tova HaAretz Meod Meod."

Monday, June 11, 2007

Numbers Game

Via The Corner, this story from the Jerusalem Post:

Billed as a massive rally and the first national demonstration focusing on an
end to the Israeli occupation, a pro-Palestinian protest held on the Capitol
lawn Sunday afternoon drew upwards of 2,000 protesters chanting anti-Israel
slogans, waving Palestinian flags and calling for the right of return for
Palestinian refugees.

The sponsors, US Campaign to End the Israeli
Occupation, United for Peace and Justice and 300 supporting organizations...

Whoa. One of the organizers is quoted as saying that "she didn't want to get into a 'numbers game.'" Of course she doesn't. But with numbers like that, to quote Goldmember, "I doooooo!" Just over two thousand people from 300 organizations? That means each organization has, at its core, only seven members tops. Or you can say there's a lot of overlap in membership, but even so, two thousand is still pretty pathetic. Thank God.

The Nanny Hands Out Treats

Tuning into the news this morning (why? don't ask me) I heard one of the most disgusting examples of rent-seeking laid bare for all. Nurse Bloomberg, anxious to push another one of his social control schemes (all for our own good, of course, like it's any of his business) has now glommed onto the "congestion pricing" idea pioneered by Red Ken over in London. Public opinion be damned, the elites are all for it, and those that weren't before...

Well, proudly standing alongside Mayor Mike was Diamond Joe Crowley, the patronage king and Party Secretary for Eastern Queens. (No, you don't have to be named Kennedy or come from a small state to fit the Quimby mold.) Crowley (who, as a Federal Congressman, should have no business sticking his nose into a local matter, not that that's ever stopped anyone- and, of course, not minding your own business is the name of the game at City Hall these days) is all for the plan- after all, he's been promised two new LIRR stations (huh?) in his neighborhood! Also weighing the plan is the Westchester Executive, openly stating that he's waiting to see how much money he gets for Metro-North before he comes out in favor of it.

Oh, and speaking of rent-seeking, the seniors will get their discount, never worry, Hizzoner assures us.

Yeah, I know in my last post I boasted of my subway prowess and exhibited condescension to drivers. And yeah, I think people driving SUV's in metropolitan areas are publicly exhibiting their deficiencies. But that's all a matter of choice- something these socialists seem not to have a concept of, at least for the masses of peons they reign over.

UPDATE: When typing this yesterday, I remember thinking, "The only thing missing from this whole farce is an appeal on behalf of 'the children.'" Well, these people are reeeeeeaaaally predictable. I open the paper today, and sure enough, Bloomie is pushing the whole thing as a way to reduce asthma in...wait for it..."the children." And Silver is objecting to it primarily because, well, it won't. Ah well. Mitoch shelo lishma...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

King of the City

He had been born and raised in New York and took a manly* pride in knowing the
city. I know the city.
-Tom Wolfe, The Bonfire of the Vanities

So much manly pride, in fact, that the ego-boost inspired by the mechanics of Sunday threatens to overwhelm the actual good and meaningful activities themselves.

It's been a busy weekend. Besides the delightful guests we had over Shabbat, I was asked to speak at Etz Chaim in the rabbi's absence, the fact that I only attend there on weekdays notwithstanding. It went over well, I think, and there was even a very nice kiddush (for all the graduates- congrats!) afterwards. I even got instant semikha from both the bulletin writer and the shul's president, who announced me. Yup, Buddha-With-A-Sword is now Rabbi Nachum Lamm.

Sunday was a bit less relaxed. At eleven, I headed off to Brooklyn for the wedding of my dear friend Zil. Ah, I recall the first time I encountered an ex-boyfriend at a wedding, the wedding of a high school classmate of mine. Actually, I think he (I also knew him, as it happened) was an ex-fiance, but either would have seemed very odd to me in those more innocent days. Now, I find myself in that position, and I don't see what's so wrong. OK, so it's a little awkward, because "old friend" (however true) doesn't really compute to many in the Orthodox world, and because quite a few people there knew that "old friend" (again, however true) wasn't the whole truth. But I digress. The wedding was low-key (at least by crazy Jew standards, and no Braveheart torches) and lovely, as was the bride, as always, and I'm eternally grateful I was invited.

Alas, I had to duck out shamefully early (to me, at least, anything before the very end would have fit that definition), although I did manage to take in the bulk of the wedding. Proper (I hope) Mazal Tovs were exchanged, but I must find some better way to express them later. But here's a placeholder huge Mazal Tov and best wishes! I was on the way into Manhattan.

I decided to forgo the elaborate transfers I had planned, especially as the trains (something Sherman McCoy, for all his ego, never really dealt with) didn't seem to be running as they should have. Even so, strolling along 42nd and the south end of Puerto Rican day, I managed to get to the RIETS (oy, that site needs help) dinner. And lo! I made it in time for Rav Goldwicht's shiur.

Post-shiur conversation paraphrase: "What's your name?" "Nachum Lamm." "Nachum Lamm? I heard a Nachum Lamm speak at Etz Chaim yesterday!" "Yup, me." Ego? Moi?

Rav Goldwicht is a gem- no, that's too mild a word- and I was there mostly because he was being honored. Kollel Yom Rishon, which I attend religiously, was his idea, and my parents attend his shiur every week (and chipped in for an ad), so how could I not come? Besides, I owed YU a dinner after the huge break they gave on the High Schools dinner (also magnificent, and one I got to enjoy to the end, appropriately enough considering I actually went there) a few weeks ago.

Alas (again) I ate little at the extensive shmorg and less at the dinner. I'd just come from a wedding, after all. Besides, I had to duck out early (yup, again) and only got to hear the introduction speeches (The dinner chairman, Richard Joel, Julius Berman, a video, R' Charlop- all terrific) and R' Goldwicht's first few words. I did get a journal and a set CDs of shiurim from YUTorah (with a picture of my cousin on the cover, hee). Once again, YU does it with style. Kol HaKavod to them, and to all the honorees!

And so to the train, here with a transfer. (I know the city.) And behold! Wonder of wonders! Pil'ei Pila'im, as R' Goldwicht is wont to say. (And as R' Charlop said, he is as well.) I made it to Chaviva's engagement party with some time to spare! (Fortunately, it ran a bit over.) Everyone who should be there was there, including some old friends I hadn't seen in a while. I even finally (after two dinners without) got some dessert, encouraged by the kallah's extraordinarily menschlich father. A huge Mazal Tov to this couple as well! I even got to finally get to know someone I see at davening every morning.

Speaking of which, it's time for bed. Durn, I'm going to have to do some serious work to recover from all the enjoyment! :-) Once again, deepest and fondest thanks and Mazal Tovs to all who made the day what it was.

Have a great week, dear ones.

*Yes, I'm aware that Wolfe, to whom manliness is a theme, is most likely using this word ironically. McCoy doesn't become manly until the last chapter in the book, and then it involves his fists. But then again, Wolfe would probably be ironic about me as well. Come to think, about himself too.