Maccabee's Wars

A venting rage against the ills of our society with some hopeful observations.

Friday, March 31, 2006

As the World Turns… --- What Were They Thinking!

The Polish Government has put in for a name change. They want to change the name of Auschwitz to something else because they feel people are assuming that it was a Polish death camp and not a German one.

It’s really a shame that some might make such a ‘mistake.’ There were so many good Poles during the war who had no knowledge of a death camp in their backyard.

Crematoriums? What crematoriums? Odor? What odor?

G-d forbid, we should incriminate the Polish people. Hitler exterminated the Jews all by himself.

Shhhhh! Let’s just change the name. Know one will know. It'll be our secret.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Where are the Gedolim?

Paysach Krohn recently gave a speech regarding the Haggaddah where he mentioned how administrations, teachers and Rebaiim tend to give up on children.

Today I came across 2 excellent articles in reference to the continuous notion of the “in doubt throw it out” attitude of our Yeshivoth whereby kids are constantly being put at risk to an exclusionary policy or to the sword of Damocles of expulsion and as a consequence thereof, at risk in the world at large.

The problem seems to be more prevalent in the Chareidi world yet Rabbi Krohn who is a member of that world mentioned the story of Rav Shwadron who was a frequent visitor to the Krohn home.

Rav Shwadron had come for Pesach Seder shortly after Rabbi Krohn’s father had passed away. During the Seder, Rabbi Krohn was hurrying the Seder along, preventing his children from asking too many questions or from describing at length what they new about the Haggaddah story.

Rav Shwadron had warned Rabbi Krohn to stop rushing. Eventually Rabbi Krohn let the Seder drag out until the wee hours of the night.

Now Rabbi Krohn wished the Seder had ended earlier because he knew that Rav Shwadron, who lived in Eretz Yisroel, had only one Seder obligation and Rav Shwadron had told Rabbi Krohn in the past that he always ate the Afikoman before Chatzos.

After the Seder, Rabbi Krohn explained to Rav Shwadron that this was the very reason he was rushing the kids to finish.

To paraphrase Rav Shwadron, “G-d forbid that my need to eat the Afikoman should outweigh the needs of your mother. Your mother is an Almonah. She waits the entire year to hear her children and grandchildren and to have Nachas from them. That is her joy. Eating the Afikoman by Chatzos is at best a D’rabanon. Looking after the needs of an Almonah is a D’oraisah!”

If only all of us could have our priorities as straight.

The latest news regarding the Yeshiva system is the latest ignominy in failing to prioritize properly. Morality is now at a new low, part of our morose existence. Rav Shwadron, z”tl has left us, as have many of the Gedolim. Is there no one to step forward?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Quote from George Costanza: “Manure, Don’t You Just Love the Way It Sounds – the Way It Rolls off of the Tongue”

A good friend of mine pointed out an article that has been making its way around the internet.

The article appears on the London Review of Books website.

Don’t rush out to buy the book.

The authors of the article theorize that Israel has been a poor ally of the US and that “the Lobby” has prevented any cogent debate on whether the U.S. should support Israel, to the extent that it does, based on its own interests. In addition, the authors advocate a debate, whether it is appropriate to support Israel based on moral grounds.

From my point of view, it’s true. There is an Israeli lobby with AIPAC acting in the forefront. As with any successful lobbyist, the more preparation, effort and ingenuity you put at your disposal, the more successful you’ll be. The same can be said for any enterprise.

Will one have moral questions while lobbying, especially when one is lobbying on behalf of a State that represents a people who have been on the verge of annihilation for the best 2000 years? Will one have moral questions when any move one makes may jeopardize the existence of those people not only in Israel but elsewhere around the world?

One is not a “de-facto agent for a foreign government” when one has these questions. One is just examining themselves in a ”dual containment” capacity by doing their job to the best of their ability and looking into their soul.

The Jewish people have always had a moral code to live by. Many times they fail in pursuing morality either by advocating their own personal notion of it or because as human beings they are only human.

But let’s not manipulate facts to show our own biased sense of history. Let the facts speak for themselves.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the British, with the Balfour Declaration, promised the Jewish people a State of their own. It would be on land that was part of a British Mandate, which had previously been in the hands of the Ottoman Empire, and previously under other governments, as far back as the Roman Empire who usurped the land from the Jewish people.

There were no Palestinians back then and there were none at the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. There were only Arabs who at best were tied together in a tribal manner, who had also been given states throughout Asia and Africa.

But that wasn’t enough. So after Israel declared its independence and the UN recognized Israel as a lawful state, the Arabs attacked en masse. They told other Arabs in the area to leave. They were ready to butcher the severely undermanned and under armed Israelis; to rape and pillage as they had done for a good number of years as is their wont.

They didn’t succeed. So as part of their modus operandi, they accused Israel of massacres that never happened; projection, what a concept.

But today, everything remains the same. The so-called Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world continue to cry about occupation when the rules of engagement of war permit the Israelis to remain where they are until a settlement of some type can be reached. That may never happen if the Israelis constantly face terrorism from their “peace partners.”

Despite living under this constant state of war and terror, Israel has always been a good ally of the US. For many years, it was the combat model for the US. America’s weapons were tested in many wars. Israel developed new and better weapons on that basis, with that technology shared with the US Government.

For many years Israel stood at the forefront of democracy against the former Soviet Union. Today, just as the US has taken the “war against terror” overseas and not had to fight it on US shores, Israel, though it is fighting for its own life on its shores, protects the US by having that war take place overseas.

The authors are also mistaken in comparing the war on America as a war on Israel and vice versa. Al-Qaida’s war has always been on western civilization and on the Arab states who allowed western personnel and morality on to their “holy” soil.

I could go on and on and debate many of the points in an article essentially based on fallacies, but I would be giving it too much credence by dignifying it as one worthy of debate.

Come to think of it, I'd rather not soil myself with any more manure.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

It’s the End of the World as We Know It and I Feel Fine.

An ode by R.E.M. seems to be spinning in my head.

With the polls for the Israeli elections indicating a victory for Ehud Olmert and Kadima, Muslim rage continuing in Iraq and elsewhere, Hamas and Abu Abbas of the Palestinian Authority continuing political talks, the news regarding Iran’s proclivity in assuring their people that they will be the next evil-axis state to attain nuclear power has been put on the backburner.

The funny thing is that the Iranian Islamists are Shiites who are not Arabs and they wish to be the leaders of both the Sunni and Shiite Pan-Arab nationalist movement.

To Arab Sunni Islamists, Iranians are Zoroastrians. Shiites, including Arab ones, on the other hand, are heretics who must be "re-converted" or put to death.

Of course, that shouldn’t be surprising, with the current trial, in “liberal” Afghanistan, of the Muslim who became a Christian convert facing a possible death sentence. You know, it’s that moral Sharia law.

Well, as Amir Teheri so eloquently put it, everything will be fine as soon as Iran “destroys” Israel. Then Iran’s mortal enemies, i.e. the rest of the Arab world, can focus on destroying Iran. Wow; nuclear proliferation, what a concept!

But why worry about these mundane matters.

In a recent issue of New Scientist, two articles suggest the world really looks like it’s coming to an end.

In the article entitled “grudge match,” the ‘hockey stick’ theory is presented where global warming is presented as a graph whereby the last thousand years appear as the shaft of a hockey stick, with no increase in global warming, while the last few years are the blade of the hockey stick which points up and indicates massive global warming beginning now.

In the second article entitled “Nightmare in Manhattan”, a nightmare scenario is presented whereby a small nuclear device is detonated in New York City.

Oh well, we can still hum R.E. M. songs: ‘First We Take Manhattan…’

See the articles below:

Nuclear nightmare in Manhattan

A truck pulls up in front of New York City's Grand Central Station, one of the most densely crowded spots in the world. It is a typical weekday afternoon, with over half a million people in the immediate area, working, shopping or just passing through. A few moments later the driver makes his delivery: a 10-kiloton atomic explosion.
Almost instantly, an electromagnetic pulse knocks out all electronics within a radius of 4 kilometres. The shock wave levels every building within a half-kilometre, killing everyone inside, and severely damages virtually all buildings for a kilometre in every direction. Detonation temperatures of millions of degrees ignite a firestorm that rapidly engulfs the area, generating winds of 600 kilometres an hour.
Within seconds, the blast, heat and direct exposure to radiation have killed several hundred thousand people. Perhaps they are the lucky ones. What follows is, if anything, even worse.
The explosion scoops out a crater 20 metres across and 10 metres deep, sending thousands of tonnes of highly radioactive debris into the air as a cloud of dust. What goes up must come down, and radioactive detritus starts piling up.
Within the first hour, enough fallout settles to fatally irradiate tens of thousands of people in the immediate area. Even 20 kilometres downwind, the majority of people caught in the path of the plume are exposed to life-threatening levels of radioactivity. Anyone less than 30 kilometres downwind will need to get out or find shelter, fast. For 150 kilometres or more downwind of the blast, dangerous amounts of fallout continue to drizzle down.
This nightmare scenario is one the US government is taking seriously. In the past two years alone, it has committed hundreds of millions of dollars to dealing with the aftermath of an act of urban nuclear terrorism, or a 9/11-style attack on a nuclear plant.
Making a bomb is not as difficult as you might imagine. The "gun-type" atomic weapon akin to the one dropped on Hiroshima is essentially a matter of shooting one piece of highly enriched uranium into another. Princeton University physicist Frank von Hippel, in a New York Times interview not long after 9/11, estimated that simply dropping a 45-kilogram lump of weapons-grade uranium onto a second piece of a similar size from a height of about 1.8 metres could produce a blast of 5 to 10 kilotons - that is, the explosive force of 5000 to 10,000 tons of TNT. With enough highly enriched uranium in the world to make hundreds of thousands of such weapons, and frequent reports of nuclear material being stolen from the former Soviet Union, it is far from unthinkable that terrorists could get their hands on enough to make a bomb.
In 2004, a US government-funded working group published an estimate of the number of radiation casualties that would follow a 10-kiloton detonation in a mid-sized city of 2 million, the size of Washington DC (Annals of Internal Medicine, vol 140, p 1037). The numbers make for sobering reading: 13,000 killed immediately; 45,000 facing certain death regardless of treatment; 255,000 at risk of dying without hospital treatment; and a further 140,000 in need of observation. Even a 1-kiloton explosion, from a smaller device or an imperfectly executed detonation, would produce perhaps a third to a half that number of radiation casualties, according to group member Jamie Waselenko of the Sarah Cannon Research Institute in Nashville, Tennessee.
It is the quarter of a million lives that could be saved that are exercising the minds of US policymakers. All of those casualties will be suffering from acute radiation syndrome, otherwise known as radiation sickness. All are potential survivors, but at present there would be little that doctors could do for them.
Most of what is known about radiation sickness comes from animal studies and accidents, and from medical records from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The syndrome is a collection of symptoms that get progressively worse with increasing exposures. The simplest measure of exposure is a unit called a gray - the number of joules of radiation energy absorbed per kilogram of tissue.

Walking dead

Any exposure above 2 grays or so is deadly serious. People irradiated to this level or higher quickly get sick, then get better again. However, this "latent phase" is only temporary. Some time later, from a few days to a month, they fall ill again, and often die. Not surprisingly, the more radiation you absorb, the more organs are involved, the quicker the immediate symptoms come on and the shorter the latent phase.
The body's most susceptible vital tissue is the bone marrow, specifically the stem cells within it that give rise to new blood cells. These are impaired at doses as low as half a gray and are usually wiped out completely and permanently above 5 grays. When the stem cells die, blood-cell counts - most critically those of neutrophils and platelets - start to drop, eventually plunging to zero after days or weeks. Without neutrophils, the first-responders of the immune system, radiation victims are at high risk of opportunistic infections. Losing platelets is also seriously bad news: without them blood cannot clot, leading to potentially fatal bleeding from even the smallest wound.
Upwards of 5 grays, the gastrointestinal tract is also affected. Radiation kills any rapidly dividing cells, such as the ones lining the intestinal tract. The resulting damage can cause gut bacteria to leak into the bloodstream, where they overwhelm the already compromised immune system and cause septic shock. At exposures above 10 grays, the central nervous system is damaged too, and death is certain, with or without treatment.
The standard treatment for radiation syndrome is "supportive care": blood and platelet transfusions, antimicrobials, fluids, anti-emetics and other "comfort measures". These treatments are better than nothing but are often not enough, and would be extremely difficult to deliver on a mass scale in the aftermath of a nuclear attack. Which means that despite receiving technically survivable doses of radiation, a large proportion of those 255,000 people will die.
The US government is determined to shift the odds in their favour. "What we're aiming to do is to be able to treat every casualty," says Norm Coleman of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, who has been helping the Department of Health and Human Services plan its response to a nuclear attack.
The government is putting its money where its mouth is. In 2005 it awarded a total of $47 million to several groups of radiation researchers, including $29 million to the newly formed Centers for Medical Countermeasures against Radiation (CMCR). Their mission is to gain a better understanding of the biology of radiation damage, find faster ways of diagnosing radiation exposure levels, and discover better drugs. In July 2004 President Bush signed the Bioshield Act into law, committing $5.6 billion to counter nuclear, biological and chemical threats. And late last year, the government put out a call for companies to develop drugs that preserve and restore neutrophil counts in radiation syndrome, with secondary emphasis on platelets. So far no such drugs have been approved in the US, but there are candidates.
One obvious option is G-CSF (granulocyte colony-stimulating factor), a cytokine that stimulates the bone marrow to pump out new blood cells. Sold by Amgen of Thousand Oaks, California, to treat neutrophil loss caused by cancer therapy, G-CSF works by preventing the death of the bone-marrow precursor cells destined to become neutrophils, and by boosting their rate of proliferation.
G-CSF is not yet licensed for radiation sickness, but it has been used in 28 cases of accidental radiation exposure and boosted neutrophil counts in 25 of them (although many of the patients died anyway). The animal results also look good. In November, Tom MacVittie of the University of Maryland in Baltimore reported that G-CSF, in combination with supportive care, improved survival rates in irradiated dogs. The US government already has large amounts of G-CSF stored in a strategic national stockpile.
Even so, there are serious doubts over G-CSF's suitability for mass administration in the event of a nuclear terror attack. The drug is expensive, up to $400 per dose, and a patient would typically need daily doses for at least two weeks. It can't be left unrefrigerated for more than 24 hours. Worse still, although it has been given to thousands of cancer patients, side effects are common and can be severe, says Waselenko. Another Amgen cytokine, thrombopoietin (TPO), has shown promise in platelet deficiency, but has been ruled out as a radiation countermeasure because it sometimes causes life-threatening side effects.

Doctor's dilemma

Cytokines' adverse effects present doctors treating radiation syndrome with a dilemma. To save lives you need to treat everyone who might have been exposed, but diagnosing exposures with any real precision takes days, and you don't want to give a drug with potentially serious side effects to people who don't actually need it. One quick-and-dirty sign of serious exposure is nausea and vomiting. The trouble is that almost half of those with dangerous radiation exposure won't vomit, while large numbers of people who are merely traumatised will.
Compounding the problem is the fact that after a detonation, many people will probably be instructed to hunker down in a sheltered spot such as a large building until the fallout has diminished enough to make a dash for it. "These people are going to be several days from even being evaluated," says Waselenko. But you don't have days. G-CSF only works if started within a day or two of irradiation.
So the search is on for better drugs. An ideal radiation countermeasure would be effective, cheap, and easy to make and administer. It would have a long shelf life, minimal side effects if given to someone who turned out not to need it, and would still work even if administered days after exposure. One drug, a steroid called 5-androstenediol or 5-AED, seems to hit most of those targets.
5-AED is cheap, chemically stable and apparently very safe. Developed by Hollis-Eden Pharmaceuticals of La Jolla, California, as an adjunct to chemotherapy, 5-AED was identified as a radioprotectant by Mark Whitnall of the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute (AFRRI) in Bethesda, Maryland, in 1996. It is now being jointly developed as a radiation sickness drug by AFRRI and Hollis-Eden.
Last October, Hollis-Eden announced that in their clinical trial 5-AED significantly increased platelets and neutrophils, without adverse effects, in a group of non-irradiated human volunteers. And in a study led by haematologist Gerard Wagemaker of Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, reported at the annual meeting of the American Society for Hematology in Atlanta, Georgia, in December 2005, 5-AED significantly reduced symptoms in irradiated rhesus monkeys and accelerated the recovery of their neutrophils, platelets, red blood cells and all-important stem cells.
"This steroid exactly mimics the actions of [the platelet-stimulating cytokine] TPO and G-CSF combined - so far, the most effective combination of cytokines for radiation damage to the bone marrow," says Wagemaker.
Although 5-AED is AFRRI's most advanced and, to date, star performer, it's not perfect. Like G-CSF, you need to get it to people quickly: it has yet to be shown effective if used more than a couple of hours after exposure.
Whitnall's team is also looking at other compounds. They have identified some analogues of vitamin E that have mild radioprotective effects in rodents when given prior to irradiation. "At this point we don't really know how they work, though," admits Whitnall. A soybean isoflavone called genistein also appears to provide modest levels of radioprotection, with virtually no side effects. Another very early-stage option is based on stem cells (see "Saved by a cell").
Some other drugs are also racking up good results in mice. One agent, a protein isolated from a parasitic microbe, temporarily switches off cells' programmed suicide apparatus, according to Andre Gudkov, chief scientific officer of the agent's developer, Cleveland Biolabs of Cleveland, Ohio. Fewer self-destructing cells seems to translate into higher survival rates for irradiated mice. Another molecule, developed by Proteome Systems of Sydney, Australia, mimics the ability of two closely paired mitochondrial enzymes, superoxide dismutase and catalase, to scavenge for free radicals, and can also keep irradiated mice alive.
The drive to develop radiation countermeasures could have some everyday pay-offs. For one thing, drugs such as 5-AED might allow us to go back to nuclear power with more confidence. And as Wagemaker points out, ageing populations will become increasingly vulnerable to blood disorders, just as the supply of donors will be dropping. "It is expected that the number of platelet infusions that are needed will at least double in 10 years' time," he warns.
No one knows the real odds of a nuclear attack on a big city. Hopefully, the nightmare will never come true, but if it does, at least there may be a stash of lifesaving drugs waiting in the wings.

Bruce Goldman is a writer based in San Francisco

From issue 2543 of New Scientist magazine, 18 March 2006, page 36

Saved by a cell

Drugs are not the only option for treating people whose bone marrow has been badly damaged by radiation. Cellerant Therapeutics of San Carlos, California, is developing a therapy that is a halfway house between a bone-marrow transplant and a blood transfusion.
After the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, doctors attempted to give bone-marrow transplants to some lethally exposed firefighters. They had little success, in part because it takes weeks for an injection of bone-marrow stem cells to replenish a patient's white blood cells. Cellerant's approach relies on cells called progenitors, which are already part-way along the developmental path leading from stem cell to blood cell and so provide an almost instant supply of replacement blood cells.
Progenitor cells grow easily in the lab and can be frozen until needed. Once thawed and infused into a vein, they start producing neutrophils and other blood cells within a matter of days, and stick around in the body for about six weeks. By then the patient's own damaged bone marrow should be starting to bounce back. And unlike other treatments, progenitor cell therapy ought to work even if it is started several days after exposure.
Radiation biologists like Cellerant's approach. "It makes perfect sense," says Nicholas Dainiak of Yale University. It could also be used in conjunction with drugs such as 5-AED that stimulate the surviving bone marrow.
So will it work in practice? Mice whose bone marrow has been almost completely wiped out survive infections if given a single infusion. In 2007, Cellerant hopes to begin trials in cancer patients who need near-lethal doses of radiation and chemotherapy.

Climate: The great hockey stick debate

18 March 2006 news service
Fred Pearce

It is a persuasive image. Dubbed "the hockey stick" soon after it was first drawn, the graph shows the average temperature over the past 1000 years. For the first 900 or so years there is little variation, like the shaft of an ice-hockey stick. Then, in the 20th century, comes a sharp rise like a hockey stick's blade. The graph seems proof at a glance that we are drastically altering the climate of our planet.
So it is not surprising that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) chose to put the graph in the summary for policymakers in its 2001 report. Some of the scientists must have hoped that the image would become an icon of climate change.
An icon it has certainly become, but not always for the reasons those scientists hoped. For the sceptics who dispute that global warming is real, or say it's nothing to worry about, the graph was like a red rag to a bull. They made it the focus of their attacks, hoping that by demolishing the hockey stick graph they would destroy the credibility of climate scientists and the notion of global warming as a phenomenon caused by human activity.
In the minds of many people they have succeeded. The hockey stick graph is widely regarded as controversial, if not plain wrong. "The hockey stick, the poster-child of the global warming community, turns out to be an artifact of poor mathematics," physicist Richard Muller wrote in Technology Review in 2004. Others have described it as rubbish or even as a downright fraud. So what's all the fuss about? And who should you believe?
The saga began in the late 1990s, when palaeoclimatologist Michael Mann, then at the University of Virginia, and his colleagues embarked on one of the first serious attempts to work out the average global temperature over the past millennium. Direct temperature measurements go back only as far as 1860, so to extend the record back in time they had to use indirect or "proxy" records of temperature, such as the annual rings of trees and isotopic ratios in corals, ice cores and lake sediments.
Such proxy records have been painstakingly assembled by thousands of researchers around the world, but their reliability varies and there are also regional biases. Many records come from temperate parts of Europe and North America, for instance, where scientists are plentiful and trees have clear annual rings; there are very few from the southern hemisphere.
Prior to 1998, attempts to reconstruct past temperatures had been based only on a handful of regional tree-ring records. Mann's team tried to build a more global and reliable picture by including as many proxies from as many different regions as possible. It was pioneering work. The first version of the hockey stick graph, showing average temperatures in the northern hemisphere going back to AD 1400, was published in Nature in 1998.
The following year the team extended the reconstruction back to AD 1000, relying on the few proxy records that go back this far. This 1999 version appeared in the 2001 IPCC report, and is the one to which the term "hockey stick graph" usually refers.
At the time, 1998 was the warmest year on record (now surpassed by 2005, according to NASA), so based partly on Mann's work, the IPCC summary stated that "it is likely that the 1990s was the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year during the past thousand years". That got headlines. And trouble - not least for the voluble, self-confident Mann. It was the start of a barrage of detailed questions and well-publicised attempted refutations. The hockey stick turned into an implement with which to beat climate scientists.
The debate has spread well beyond the scientific community. Republican senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who calls global warming a "hoax", has repeatedly attacked the hockey stick. Last year, Congressman Joe Barton of Texas ordered Mann to provide the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which Barton chairs, with voluminous details of his working procedures, computer programs and past funding. "There is a concerted effort to undermine the IPCC. There are people who believe that if they bring down Mike Mann, they can bring down the IPCC," says Ben Santer of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California. Santer himself came under attack after writing a chapter in the 1995 IPCC report.
Mann, however, still brims with self-confidence. Now at Penn State University, he treats his critics with something close to contempt. "A lot of scientists would have retreated, but Mike is tenacious," says Gavin Schmidt of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, his collaborator on the climate science blog RealClimate.
Mann's style does not always help matters. "The goddam guy is a slick talker and super-confident. He won't listen to anyone else," says Wally Broecker of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York. "I don't trust people like that."
“Mann is a slick talker and super-confident. He won't listen to anyone else. I don't trust people like that.”
So the politics is nasty, but what about the science? First, the big picture. The rise in temperatures during the 20th century is generally accepted because it is based on direct measurements. What the hockey stick graph shows is that such a sustained and rapid rise is an anomaly in the context of the past thousand years. This is what you would expect if human activity is to blame for the 20th-century warming, but it is suggestive only. The warming might be caused by natural factors.
Evidence of human involvement comes from many other sources, including climate models. The simulations created by these models can be made to match the temperatures measured over the past 140 years only when the increase in greenhouse gases is included. These graphs also appeared in the 2001 IPCC summary.
The hockey stick has been repeatedly misrepresented as the crucial piece of evidence when it comes to industrialisation and global warming. It is not. Even if the hockey stick were shown to be a doodle that Mann did on a napkin during a night out, the evidence that the world is getting warmer, and that this warming is largely due to human activities, would still be overwhelming.

Fraught with danger

Leaving that aside, did Mann get it right? Does the hockey stick accurately reflect northern hemisphere temperatures over the past 1000 years? There is no doubt that reconstructing past temperatures from proxy data is fraught with danger. Take tree ring records. They sometimes reflect rain or drought rather than temperature. They also get smaller as a tree gets older, so annual or even decadal detail is lost. "You lose roughly 40 per cent of the amplitude of changes," says tree ring specialist Gordon Jacoby at Lamont-Doherty.
To reveal the "signal" behind the noise of short-term and random change, a proxy record for one region must be based on as many tree ring records as possible. It must also correlate with direct measurements of local temperature during the period of overlap - which adds another layer of complication, as in some cases human factors such as pollution might have affected recent tree growth.
So the first question is whether the proxy records Mann chose are reliable indicators of temperature. Some have been questioned. "He has a series from central China that we believe is more a moisture signal than a temperature signal," Jacoby says. "He included it because he had a gap. That was a mistake and it made tree-ring people angry."
Mann accepts that some of the measurements he uses do not directly represent temperature change. His argument is that, for instance, coral records showing rainfall levels in the Pacific are proxies for the El Niño cycle and so for changes in ocean temperatures. Jacoby is not convinced. "I'm not slamming what he did overall. It was a great effort, a great step," he acknowledges. "But he got into hot water by defending it too hard in places where he shouldn't."
Broecker is less accommodating. He says that Mann's hockey stick cannot be right because it does not show the Little Ice Age from roughly 1550 to 1850 or the Medieval Warm Period after 1000, whereas most tree-ring chronologies do show these periods. It is a point seized on by many sceptics, but Mann is unmoved. His point of departure almost a decade ago was that tree ring records alone won't do when it comes to measuring global temperatures, because they are biased towards temperate North America and Europe.
Many other researchers agree. "The Little Ice Age is primarily a European and North Atlantic phenomenon," says Keith Briffa, a tree ring analyst from the University of East Anglia, UK. "And the geographical extent of the Medieval Warm Period is still massively uncertain, because data is sparse."
Indeed, the proxy records suggest that high temperatures in one region tend to be balanced out by low temperatures in another. The tropical Pacific, for instance, appears to have cooled during the Medieval Warm Period and warmed during the Little Ice Age. "The regional temperature changes in our reconstruction are quite large; it's simply that they tend to average out," Mann says.
Most attacks on the hockey stick, however, focus on Mann's statistical methods. The meta-analysis he pioneered, in which different proxy records are merged, involves sorting and aggregating these signals and smoothing the result. Mann then meshed this proxy synthesis with the instrumental record.
Critics complain that by combining smoothed-out proxy data from past centuries with the recent instrumental measurements, which preserve more short-term trends, Mann created a false impression of anomalous recent change. "To be fair, Mann did correct that later on," Jacoby says. This made the blade shorter, but did not change much else. Mann also points out that he was one of the first to include error bars, which show how much variance is lost due to smoothing.

Flaw in methodology

A more serious accusation has come from two non-climate scientists from Canada, who claim to have found a flaw in Mann's statistical methodology. Stephen McIntyre, a mathematician and oil industry consultant, and Ross McKitrick, an economist at the University of Guelph, Ontario, base their criticism on the way Mann used a well-established technique called principal component analysis. This involves dividing "noisy" data into different sets and giving each set an appropriate weighting. McIntyre and McKitrick claim that the way Mann applied this method had the effect of damping down natural variability, straightening the shaft of the hockey stick and accentuating 20th century warming.
There is one sense in which Mann accepts that this is unarguably true. The point of his original work was to compare past and present temperatures, so he analysed temperatures in terms of their divergence from the 20th-century mean. This approach highlights differences from that period and will thus accentuate any hockey stick shape if - but only if, he insists - it is present in the data.
The charge from McIntyre and McKitrick, however, is that Mann's computer program does not merely accentuate this shape, but creates it. To make the point, they did their own analysis based on looking for differences from the mean over the past 1000 years instead of from the 20th-century mean. This produced a graph showing an apparent rise in temperatures in the 15th century as great as the warming occurring now. The shaft of the hockey stick had a big kink in it. When this analysis was published last year in Geophysical Research Letters it was hailed by some as a refutation of Mann's study.
McIntyre and McKitrick say that their work is intended to show only that there are problems with Mann's analysis; they do not claim their graph accurately represents past temperatures. "We have repeatedly made it clear that we offer no alternative reconstruction," McIntyre states on his Climate Audit blog.
The obscure statistical arguments were overshadowed in late 2005 when Mann refused to give Congressman Barton his computer code. Mann regarded the code as private property, but his opponents claimed he feared refutation of his findings. Mann did eventually publish the code, but the damage was done.
In the meantime, three groups had been scrutinising the claims of McIntyre and McKitrick. Hans von Storch of the GKSS Research Centre in Geesthacht, Germany, concluded that McIntyre and McKitrick were right that temperatures should be analysed relative to the 1000-year mean, not the 20th-century mean. But he also found that even when this was done it did not have much effect on the result. Peter Huybers of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts came to much the same conclusion.
The work of Eugene Wahl of Alfred University, New York, and Caspar Ammann of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, raised serious questions about the methodology of Mann's critics. They found the reason for the kink in the McIntyre and McKitrick graph was nothing to do with their alternative statistical method; instead, it was because they had left out certain proxies, in particular tree-ring studies based on bristlecone pines in the south-west of the US.
"Basically, the McIntyre and McKitrick case boiled down to whether selected North American tree rings should have been included, and not that there was a mathematical flaw in Mann's analysis," Ammann says. The use of the bristlecone pine series has been questioned because of a growth spurt around the end of the 19th century that might reflect higher CO2 levels rather than higher temperatures, and which Mann corrected for.
What counts in science is not a single study, however. It is whether a finding can be replicated by other groups. Here Mann is on a winning streak: upwards of a dozen studies, some using different statistical techniques or different combinations of proxy records (excluding the bristlecone record, for instance), have produced reconstructions more or less similar to the original hockey stick.

More variability

Some reconstructions show much more variability, especially those based only on tree rings, but every reconstruction to date supports the main claim in the IPCC summary: the past decade is likely the warmest for 1000 years (see Graphs). Whatever the flaws in Mann's original work, it seems the broad conclusion is correct.
McIntyre is not impressed. "There is a distinct possibility that researchers have either purposefully or subconsciously selected series with the hockey stick shape," he told one reporter.
The sceptics are unlikely to give up, whatever the conclusions of a panel set up by the US National Academies to assess temperature reconstructions. But for most climate scientists, the controversy is a sideshow. Whatever happened before 1860, the world has been getting warmer since that time, and there is no doubt in their minds that industrialisation is mostly responsible.
What really matters is the future. The IPCC is predicting a rise of between 1.4 and 5.8 °C by 2100. Now take a look at the scale on the hockey stick graph. As Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany points out: "If humanity takes no action and this century sees a temperature rise of 2 °C, 3 °C or even more, the current discussions over whether the 14th century was a few tenths of a degree warmer or the 17th a few tenths cooler than previously thought will look rather academic."
The subtext of many attacks on the hockey stick is that if the world was warmer 1000 years than it is now, this shows there is nothing unusual going on and we can all stop worrying. Not so, says Briffa. If the world was warmer 1000 years ago, it would suggest the climate system is very sensitive to outside influences, whether past solar cycles or present accumulating greenhouse gases. "Greater past climate variations imply greater future climate change," he says. From this perspective, it would be most worrying if all the hockey sticks really are wrong.

From issue 2543 of New Scientist magazine, 18 March 2006, page 40

Israel and the Ayatollahs

March 24, 2006 -- Some claim they've found the perfect solution to Iran's nuclear ambitions. It's simple: Israel attacks the Islamic Republic to destroy much of its nuclear infrastructure, setting the bomb project back by a decade, time for a more responsible regime to emerge in Tehran.
This would please the Europeans, because it would remove the spotlight from their appeasement policy, which is partly responsible for the crisis. They could shake their heads in a "told you so" gesture at the mullahs, and feel glum about their ability to stand above dirty games played by "immature powers" such as the Islamic Republic and Israel.
Also happy: The Americans (who clearly lack a policy on Iran - indeed, can't even agree on a diagnosis of the problem) and the Arab states, now shaking in their sandals at the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran.
Russia, too. Hostilty to its neighbor is deep-felt in Iran, which lost territory to Russia in bitter wars with the czars. By the middle of this century, Iran's population will outnumber Russia's. A nuclear-armed Islamic Iran would emerge as an even stronger player.
In short, a great many countries have a direct interest in preventing Iran from going nuclear - yet none is prepared to dirty its hands in the matter. Hence all the talk about Israel taking action.
Yet Israel would not top any list of countries that might be subjected to Iranian nuclear bullying or attack.
Israel has a small air space to defend and is well equipped to destroy missiles launched from Iran. Any nuclear attack by Tehran's terrorist agents in Lebanon and the West Bank, meanwhile, would also kill large numbers in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.
Yes, the anti-Israeli discourse of Iran's rulers is as virulent as that of Hamas and other Palestinian radical groups. But that discourse is partly prompted by the regime's desire to hide its Shiite identity so that it can claim the leadership of radical Islam, both Shiite and Sunni.
In fact, regardless of who rules in Tehran, Israel and Iran have common strategic interests.
If Israel had never appeared on the map, the energy of pan-Arab nationalism movement, which dominated Arab politics in the post-war era, would have been directed against two other neighbors: Turkey and Iran. To a certain extent, it was anyway. Even today, the Arab League claims that the Turkish province of Iskanderun is "usurped Arab territory" and regards the Iranian province of Khuzestan as "occupied Arab land."
And Arab Sunni Islamism is an even more deadly threat to Iran. It was Arab Sunni Islamism that destroyed the Shiite holy shrines in Iraq in 1802, and returned last month to do so again in Samarra. The same movement is behind the cold-blooded murder of several thousand Iraqi Shiite men, women and children since 2004.
To Arab Sunni Islamists, Iranians are gabrs (Zoroastrians); Shiites, including Arab ones, are rafidis (heretics) who must be "re-converted" or put to death.
Both pan-Arab nationalism and pan-Arab Sunni Islamism are as much mortal foes for Iran as they are for Israel. Neither nation will be safe unless the twin monsters are defeated and the Arab states democratized.
Were Iran to "destroy" Israel, at a huge human cost to itself, it would only be realizing the dream of its own mortal enemies. This is why there is virtually no popular support in Iran for an anti-Israeli policy that goes beyond rhetoric or limited support for Iran's clients in Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories.
Thus, Israel has no reason to assume a responsibility that far stronger powers don't wish to face. In fact, part of Israel's problems stem from the failure of its successive leaders to steer the country clear of other people's quarrels.
In successive wars during the Cold War, Israel destroyed the Soviet-built arsenals of several Arab countries. That helped protect Washington's Arab allies against aggression by pro-Soviet Arab powers - and thus kept the the Soviets from gaining indirect control of the region's vital oil resources. Israel, however, was "rewarded" by not being allowed to translate its military victories into a political settlement that reflected its national interests.
In 1980, Israel knocked out the French-made Iraqi nuclear-weapons center, even though Saddam Hussein was making that bomb to drop on Tehran. The Israeli action helped the major powers avoid catastrophe in a region vital to their interests. Israel's reward? Being described by Jacques Chirac, then mayor of Paris, as "a criminal state."
To be sure, Israel should make it clear that it would retaliate with double force against any attack. But it should also remind those urging it to act that the Islamic Republic's policies, including its quest for nuclear weapons, represent a threat not only to Israel but to many other nations in the Middle East and beyond.

Iranian author Amir Taheri is a member of Benador Associates.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Muslim Frumkeit

I came across a copy of Maimonides by Sherwin B. Nuland, M.D. It was a biography of the Rambam from a medical perspective.

One of the bits of information I did not know was the difference between Shiites and Sunnis.

The Shiites, similar to Karaites, only believe in Koran Sh-beksav while the Sunnis, like orthodox Jews, believe in Koran Sh-beksav and Koran Sh-balpeh.

I don’t know if this accounts for any variations in anti-semitism by the Muslim world, but I do know that the anti-semitism is insanely virulent.

Recently I saw a video where Dr Wafa Sultan, appeared on Al-Jazeera, the Arabic television network.

She described how, as a young girl, anti-semitism was inculcated in her and all Syrian children. It made her so terrified of Jews that she refused to act the part of the Israeli prime minister Golda Meir in a school play.

In her first week in the United States she and her husband went to a shoe shop in Hollywood. Her husband asked the clerk where he was from and when he said that he was an Israeli Jew, his wife ran away without shoes, barefoot.

Her husband followed her and said, ‘How stupid you are.’ She responded that she was scared to death because he was from Israel; “I reacted in a very bad, negative way, because of the way I had been raised, for the past 30 years of my life.”

It shouldn’t be surprising that this attitude is all over the Arab world and inculcated in every child from birth; if not, in the womb. The propaganda machine from the Palestinian Authority, has been expounding all of the above for years and I’m sure with Hamas in charge it will increase at least ten-fold.

It’s refreshing, however, to hear someone in the Arab world admit to it.

Copy and paste these two sites below to see the article and video:,,2092-2092167_1,00.html

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Historical Accuracy vs. Story Time

After finally viewing “Munich” I began to wonder; what’s wrong with Steven Spielberg? At best he is a ‘Tinuk Shenishba.’ More likely he is part of the left-wing Hollywood liberalism which is currently on display in “V for Vendetta.”

If “Munich” had only been a story concocted by some Hollywood writer, then the entire outcry against the film would be ‘much ado about nothing.’

90% of the film was basically good filmmaking with an interesting story. However, the crying liberalism by the characters was almost laughable.

Memo to Spielberg: If you want your audience to buy ‘moral equivalency,’ don’t have your characters wear it on their sleeves.

Memo to Tony Kushner: If you want your audience to believe that your characters are credible, don’t attempt to equate your notion of sexuality with theirs.

Memo to both Kushner and Spielberg: Stick with the facts. You’ll have a better film and more credibility. Better yet, you may actually win a few Oscars.

“V for Vendetta,” on the other hand, which is based on fiction, was able to succeed where “Munich” failed.

As with most good science fiction/fantasy it was able to hide its liberal bent within its ‘story.’

People can agree or differ with its premise of a George Bush type character becoming a tyrant by expanding “Patriot Act” type laws into de-facto totalitarianism, but the characters are believable. The same cannot be said of “Munich” which is based on real events.

Either way, advice to those who make us weary: If you have an agenda and you have a ‘story’ to tell, base it on the ‘facts.’ It’ll go a long way.

The attached reviews are for comparison purposes:

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Lie with No Legs to Stand On

As a followup to a shiur by Dr. Leiman two weeks, Dr. Leiman gave another shiur regarding how important truthfulness is to historical accuracy.

In short, the story of the Golem allegedly made by the Maharal of Prague has long been known to have been put into print by Rav Yudel Rosenberg in 1909. It was meant to be a story for children as the Marcus Lehmann stories had been.

Dr. Leiman, in previous shiurim had made mention of a Jubilee compendium of Rav Rosenberg's works which list some Talmudic discourses such as on Tractate Nedarim and his 'story books' which Niflo'os Maharal is listed as one.

The expose in Dei'ah VeDibur which quotes the Shineveh Rav as having 'his heart pierced' every time he read from Niflo'os Maharal 'since Rav Rosenberg admitted it was a forgery' is obviously a fallacy since the Shineveh Rav died in 1898 while the 'story book' was written in 1909.

Further when the retelling of the Shineveh Rav's angst was mentioned in front of the Peshvorsk Rav, the ADMOR Rav Yaakov Leizer of Peshvorsk refused to accept the incident as true.

The ADMOR refused to accept its veracity because he recognized the falsehood in the story. Why, you ask? How could he know whether it was true or not.

Well you see, the Peshvorsk Rav was the very same Rav who gave out the 'krechts' during davening when he felt pain from a broken arm. He was the very same Rav who called his students over to let them know the truth about the 'krechts.' It had nothing to do with his Kavanah during davening.

He wanted to make sure they would not accuse him of misleading them. He did not want them to become a "Ba'al Teshuva" based on a fallacy; moreover, if they would find out the truth independently, they would then reject all that he taught them.

Only a person such as the Peshvorsk Rav would recognize the fallacy in the story attributed to the Shineveh Rav. Only a person who was mindful of truth in all situations could recognize when a 'white lie' was being told.

Where people may go 'off the derech' because of a laxity in historical accuracy, 'the end does not justify the means.'

See below the related article with Dr. Leiman's letter to the internet.

As I noted previously, the Haredi mouthpiece Dei'ah veDibur had a rather insightful piece on the falicy of the Golem of Prauge. However, although the article ended with the hope that after bringing this fabrication to the readers attention people will only tell true stories. Rabbi Dr. S. Leiman, however, notes that the story itself in Dei'ah veDibur contains a rather glaring inaccuracy.

Letter by Dr. Leiman:

The March 1, 2006 issue of _Dei'ah Ve-Dibur_ -- a haredi journal -- includes an essay entitled: "The Golem of Prague -- Fact or Fiction?." Adducing evidence from a variety of sources, the essay concludes that "it is unclear whether or not the Maharal ever made a golem."
Much of the blame for leading people to think that the Maharal had made a golem, the essay suggests, rests with Y.Y. Rosenberg [sic: while all the other rabbis mentioned in the essay are entitled "Rav" or "Rabbi," only Y.Y. Rosenberg, who was a distinguished rabbi with ordination from the greatest rabbis in Poland, is defrocked], whose 1909 volume on the Golem of the Maharal (Sefer Nifla'ot Maharal) is identified as a forgery. The essay concludes with appropriate warnings that one should rely only on literature that is "historically reliable."
Such a critical reading of Jewish literature -- and concern with Historical truth -- is certainly a welcome breath of fresh air from a circle that has not always covered itself with glory regarding such matters. Alas, the essay fell into the very trap about which it was warning others: beware! One paragraph reads:
"At one point the author [Y.Y. Rosenberg] of the book actually admitted that he had invented the story. In _Halelu Avdei Hashem_, which contains stories in Yiddish about HaRavMoshe Aryeh Freund zt"l, av beis din of the Eida HaChareidis, Rav Yechezkel Halberstam zt"l of Shineveh, author of _Divrei Yechezkel_, is quoted as having made the following comment. "A shochet ubodek from Antwerp heard from the Rov z"l, who heard from his father the Rov of Honiad (an important Jewish community in Hungary), who heard from the Rov of Shineveh (eldest son of the Divrei Chaim zt"l of Sanz). The Shinever Rov said that whenever he sees the book _Niflo'os Maharal_ it pierces him because the author of the stories personally admitted to him that he fabricated the whole thing."
Leaving aside significant errors of translation, the Shinever Rov -- Rav Yechezkel Halberstam, author of _Divrei Yechezkel_ and eldest son of the Divrei Chaim -- died on 6 Teveth, 1898. Rabbi Yehudah Yudl Rosenberg published his _Nifla'ot Maharal_ for the first time in Warsaw, 1909. It can easily be proven that the book did not exist until shortly before it was published in 1909. The Shinever Rov never heard of the book, never saw it,and was not "pierced" by its content.
Indeed, one should rely only on literature that is "historically reliable."

Friday, March 17, 2006

Reading Writing and Racism

As a followup to the selfishness and lack of righteousness in the secular world, I came across an article by Michelle Malkin discussing a performance of 'poetry' by one Autum Ashante who's father, Batin Ashante, is also a 'poet' for the Nation of Islam.

Oh joy, oh joy, but to hear once again the glowing accolades of Farrakhan. What more 'Nachas' can one have? Should we even wonder what kind of 'def poetry jam' little Autum displayed for us? You can bet it didn't sound like Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons.'

Why show any Hakoras Hatov to America for trying to rectify slavery because they may have felt it was wrong? They are no better than the Egyptians who enslaved the Jews for hundreds of years and even with G-d performing miracles against Pharaoh and his minions wouldn't admit to any moral turpitude.

Yet the Torah allows marriage with Egyptian converts after a number of generations because of the Hakoras Hatov we should feel for the fact that Ya'akov and his sons were given refuge in Egypt.

America, on the other hand, is evil; pretty much like our 'gutter religion,' as it has been called by "the honorable minister Louis."

Read the article and weep.

37-year-old poisonous ‘poet’ is in demand

By Michelle Malkin

One of the nation's fastest-rising poetry prodigies is a 7-year-old New York girl whose poisonous demagogic advocacy of black separatism makes Al Sharpton look like Mr. Rogers.

Autum Ashante' of Mount Vernon, N.Y., has performed at HBO's Def Poetry Jam, The Cotton Club in L.A., The Apollo Theater in Harlem, the African Street Festival, Caroline's on Broadway, the Russell Simmons Phat Farm Fashion Show, Steve Harvey's "Big Time," a prestigious Grammy Foundation event, and at universities and other venues across the country.

She recites her verses not only in English, but also in fluent Swahiili and Arabic (she attended the Islamic Darul Arkam School in Mount Vernon).

Autum has appeared at a tribute to black nationalist Marcus Garvey, America-bashing 9/11 conspiracy-monger Amiri Baraka's annual family cookout, and the extremist New Black Panther Party's Million Youth March. The city of New York honored her with a proclamation for inspiring "her peers, as well as adults, while also demonstrating the power of a father's love, the importance of education and the limitless boundaries of the human mind." New York City councilwoman Yvette Clark called her "one of the most precious young talents that this world has ever known."

Most recently, as New York Post education reporter David Andreatta reported this weekend, she was invited to perform at public middle and high schools in Peekskill, N.Y., for Black History Month.

Here, in full, is what precious little Autum — groomed by her single father, Ashante, a Nation of Islam poet/activist — spewed:

White Nationalism
Put U In Bondage
White nationalism is what put you in bondage
Pirate and vampires like Columbus, Morgan, and Darwin
Drank the blood of the sheep, trampled all over them with
Steel, tricks and deceit.
Nothing has changed take a look in our streets
The mis-education of she and Hegro — leaves you on your knee2grow
Black lands taken from your hands, by vampires with no remorse
They took the gold, the wisdom and all of the storytellers
They took the black women, with the black man weak
Made to watch as they changed the paradigm
Of our village
They killed the blind, they killed the lazy, they went
So far as to kill the unborn baby
Yeah White nationalism is what put you in bondage
Pirates and vampires like Columbus, Morgan, and Darwin
They drank the blood of the sheep, trampled all over them with
Steel laden feet, throw in the tricks alcohol and deceit.
Nothing has changed take a look at our streets.

Autum's performance also included commanding white students to remain seated as she led black students in a recitation of the "Black Child's Pledge," which reads in part:

I pledge allegiance to my Black People.
I pledge to develop my mind and body to the greatest extent possible.
I will learn all that I can in order to give my best to my People in their struggle for liberation.
…I will discipline myself to direct my energies thoughtfully and constructively rather than wasting them in idle hatred.
…I will train myself never to hurt or allow others to harm my Black brothers and sisters…
These principles I pledge to practice daily and to teach them to others in order to unite my People.

Complaints from shocked students and parents led to a tape-recorded apology sent to all parents apologizing for the performance. Autum's father condemned white district officials as "racist crackers." Autum defended her poem by explaining to the Westchester Journal News that white people are "devils and they should be gone. We should be away from them and still be in Africa."

And make note of this: The official who invited Autum to speak, Melvin Bolden, is a public school music teacher, Peekskill councilman, and producer of her first spoken word album.

Who is surprised? If you set aside a separate holiday for Black History Month in the public schools, if you set aside separate graduation ceremonies, college dorms, academic departments, recruiting programs, and government contracts and subcontracts by race, you send a message that hardcore racial separatism is not only acceptable — but desired.

Autum Ashante' is the natural offspring of militant multiculturalism and government-sanctioned identity politics.

We reap what we sow.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Stephon Marbury vs. the Jews

Marbury, for those who don’t know, is the self-proclaimed ‘star’ point guard for the New York Knicks. The job of a point guard is to lead your team in a selfless manner and make the players around you better, similar to Jason Kidd of the Nets who actually was traded at one point for the very same ”Starbury.”

Unfortunately, wherever Marbury goes, chaos seems to follow. This year the chaos has been found off the court with the verbal diatribes between Marbury and his coach, Larry Brown, who happens to be Jewish.

Now this factor has nothing to do with the title of today’s blog. There is no apparent anti-semitism being espoused. The title has more to do with Middoth. Though, both the coach and player have tremendous egos and both are speaking Loshon Horah about each other, B’rabim, that too is not the issue.

The issue is that Marbury has always been selfish. The expression of “there’s no ‘I’ in team” never got through to him. He must have failed spelling very early on.

Even his ideas of Tzedakah have been warped, as for example, when he sponsored a poetry/rap contest for inner city public school kids whereby the main event was the appearance of a ‘gangsta-rapper’ who was cheered to no end and was emulated through the verbiage of the ‘poetry’ used by these kids.

In Judaism, however, selflessness has been one of the higher attributes of Yahaduth. Tzedakah has always been in the forefront. But there are all kinds of causes. Where does one give to and how much does one give?

I received the following note by email today. I have edited out the names as a matter of privacy. I’m sure what happened to this young girl could happen to any of us. I leave it for your perusal.

>March 12, 2006
>Dear Friends:
>Will you join me in helping “X” in her time of need?
>As you may be aware, “X” has been sick for over a year. Her illness
>has been so debilitating that she has spent much of the past year
>relegated to bed rest. “X” has been suffering from severe vertigo and
>balance problems (falling), audio deficits, and distortion of vision.
>She has gone from doctor to doctor, and has been in and out of the
>hospital for numerous procedures and tests, trying to get a diagnosis
>for her illness.
>After a year of tests and doctor visits, “X” has finally been
>diagnosed with neurological lyme disease (for information visit
> ). Now “X” has
>a diagnosis and a plan of treatment, but she can't afford the treatment.
>In fact, she can't even afford to pay the basic costs of living.
>”X” 's treatment for this disease will require a minimum of eight weeks
>of at-home IV antibiotic infusions, which will require home nursing. She
>will also need neuro-cognitive testing, which she is scheduled to do at
>the Lyme Disease Research Center at Columbia University. She will also
>require cognitive and vestibular rehabilitation as well as vision
>The home nursing is not fully covered by her insurance, and the IV
>antibiotic treatment is only covered for half of the necessary
>treatments (the treatments cost about $150 a day for a minimum of 8
>weeks). The cost of the neuro-cognitive testing is not covered by her
>insurance (the cost is $3,250 for the two days of testing). Her
>physical and other therapies, testing and hospitalizations are at best
>only partially covered.
>Therefore, as a concerned friend, I am trying to help her with the costs
>of fighting this disease. To give you some idea of what this has cost
>so far, doctor and hospital costs alone for the past year totaled over
>$22,000 in out-of-pocket expenses (i.e. those expenses not covered by
>Blue Cross), plus more than $2,500 in co-payments for medications.
>I urge you to join me today in supporting this worthy cause. There can
>be no better use of your "Mayser Kesofim" dollars then to truly help
>another survive. In order to help, you may send a check payable to
>"Zichron Shmuel" (tax deductible) and mail it to:
>Chesed Fund – S.L.
>PO Box 20922
>New York, NY 10025
>Together, we can make sure “X” receives the treatments that she
>needs without the additional stress of worrying how to pay for it.
>Thank you & Tizku L'mitzvoth,

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold

As a postscript to Saturday March 4th's blog, the losing hockey team in a 4-3 match hosted the winning team last week and beat them soundly 7-0.

I guess Melville was right after all.

I can hear the losers groaning, "marooned for all eternity, in the center of a dead planet, buried alive, buried alive."

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Purim Story Continues

Ahmed Saadat, the alleged murderer of Rechavam Ze'evi has been captured by Israeli forces in Jericho.

Notwithstanding the accusations of collusion with the British and the Americans, the benefit to Ehud Olmert's election campaign, and the alienation of the palestinians who destoy a British building in the same vein as their actions regarding the caricatures of Mohammed, (destroy, destroy, destroy) the capture of Saadat is the beginning of justice.

A few years ago in August 2001, shortly after the Sabbaro massacre, I was on a solidarity mission to Israel when our group met Knesset minister Ze'evi at Neot Kedumim. He spoke at length of the appreciation he had for our visit at that time. He was murdered shortly thereafter in a major hotel in Jerusalem.

The palestinians have been nothing but a hindrance in the apprehension of terrrorists and murderers.

If this is Ze'evi's murderer, let this be the beginning of the capture of every last one of them.

Timche es zacheir Amalek.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Kesheim She'Mevorachim Al Hatov Kach Mavorchim Al Ha'Rah - Just As We Bless G-d For The Good So Shall We Bless G-d For The Bad

It's amazing sometimes when you hear a speech and you feel it's directed at you.

On Friday I was preparing to go to my friend's son's Bris which took place on Shabbos. My mother wanted me to accompany her to the Bakery to pick up some goodies to take to another friend whom we would be staying by for Shabbos.

Prior to going I had a problem with starting my car and once the engine turned over I let it keep running in front of the Bakery.

As I was standing near the car, a traffic agent told me to move the car along and as I was complying he was using a handheld device to copy info off of my registration sticker.

Disgusted by the fact that he's trying to ticket me even though I'm leaving, I hurry off. Not knowing whether I'd received a ticket or not, I'm both furious at myself for putting myself in a bad situation and at the agent for manipulating the circumstances.

But then in shul on Shabbos I heard a speech by the Mora D'asra of the Tzierei of 14th Avenue, Rav Baruch Saks.

He asked how we can Bless G-d for the 'Bad' which occurs to us with the very same energy we Bless G-d for the 'Good?' His answer revolved around two more questions.

Why is Purim known as purim? Firstly, it should be known as Pur because there was only one lottery. Secondly, why name a holiday after a lottery which was meant to destroy the Jewish people?

Well the answer lies within the question. The very same circumstances surrounding the 'Bad' lottery turned out to become a 'Good' lottery.

Haman's actions brought forth the circumstances which allowed Esther to become Queen, the building of the second Beis Hamikdash through the benevolence of Cyrus, and a yearly celebration of a wonderful holiday.

This turnabout is also seen in the 'order' to drink Ad-She-Lo-Yoda.

We are to drink 'wine' until we can't tell the difference between cursing or blessing Haman and Mordechai.

Why drink 'wine' rather than whiskey? Well, for one, the miracle which replaced Vashti with Esther took place at a party where wine was being served, probably to excess. Moreover, Esther's party for Achashveirosh and Haman was one where wine was also served.

Why again, wine over whisky?

Well, in times gone by, when the Jewish courts had the authority to administer capital punishment, they used to serve the codemned man Shaichor or a type of whiskey. On the other hand, when a man was depressed, in general, he was served wine to lift his spirits. Whiskey, 'deadened' the spirit; something possibly needed for the man who was going to his execution.

In fact, the 'custom' for wishing people a L'Chaim after drinking whiskey stems from the execution scenario. We want to reverse the custom for a man about to die to a wish for life to a person who's having a drink, especially a celebratory drink.

The turnabout by drinking to excess until Ad-She-Lo-Yoda also refers to the changing of the supposed 'Bad' to the 'Good'.

A devastating decree by Haman turned into a celebration through Mordecahi and Esther.

So should we Bless G-d with the same energy for the 'Bad' as we Bless G-d for the 'Good.'

On a closing related note, my friend, the father of the new baby, named the baby after his father.

The grandfather of the new baby, who passed away about 5 years ago, had a tough time when he came to America from Europe. But he always had a steadfast perseverance to any obstacle.

Aside from 'making a living' and rasing children with the proper Derech, there were always people who made things harder with their 'suggestions.'

When the immigration officials wanted to change his last name because it was too hard to pronounce, he refused, because the name was a connection to his roots and family.

When neighbors and officials suggested that he place his mother-in-law in a nursing home because the family didn't have money for themselves, he responded that so long as the family will have food to eat, she will have food to eat; so long as the family has a roof over their heads and a bed to sleep in, so will she.

And she did. She remained with the family all of her life.

The great-grandmother and the grandfather of this new baby are long gone and that's sad. But now we have a new member of the jewish family.

So when we Bless G-d even for the apparant 'Bad,' we hope to end up in the long run with the 'Good.'

As the new father said so eloquently how he hopes his sons will have the same attributes as his own father, I already knew, and hoped, that in the long run, we would see that wish come into fruition.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Holocaust Cinema -- Part Two

If one must make comedies about Nazi Germany why must it be filmed in Berlin?

Dani Levi, the director of "Alles auf Zucker," a film which ridiculed the orthodox, in Germany, now is making "Mein Führer," a comedy being filmed in the heart of Berlin.

Is it really necessary to regale the Berlin populace with Third Reich draperies, so that latent Nazis can have some Nachas?

Even Eytan Fox, the director of such abominations as "Yossi and Jaeger" and the more recent "Walk on Water" didn't dress up Germany in full Nazi regalia.

Let's just stick with the original production of "The Producers," starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, two very funny Jews, and forget about making tasteless Holocaust comedies.,,3-2072666,00.html

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Cinema of the Holocaust

There have been numerous films on the Holocaust. The ones that sometime have the most impact are the fictional stories based on true events. From Schindler's List to Europa, Europa to Life is Beautiful, these stories open the heart. Other's such as The Tin Drum sicken it.

Lately I've seen some of the smaller films which may have been missed by most of you. The Last Butterfly, Good Evening Mr. Wallenberg and Rose's Songs are quite interesting films about Thereseinstadt and the last days of the war in Budapest.

Recently, Germany has been exploring it's own past with films such as Downfall and Napola which focused on the last days of Hitler and the elite youth movement. More of late, they are focusing on the very small few who tried to fight against the Nazis.

Though I have not seen the film, I have heard good things regarding Sophie Scholl: The Final Days about the last six days in the life of a renowned German anti-Nazi activist.

An excellent film which I have seen is Rosenstrasse about the women who protested against the Nazis to be reunited with their Jewish families through marriage.

Though it may go against the grain of our sensibilities towards inter-marriage and the notion that there were any 'good' Germans during WWII, it is a fine film and I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Oh Canada, Glorious and Free, We Stand on Guard, We Stand on Guard For Thee

Adam Stern led Canada to an 8-6 victory over team USA in the World Baseball Classic. He did so by hitting a solo inside the park home run giving Canada an 8-0 lead. With the score 8-6, Stern saved the Canadians with a great catch robbing the USA of a 3 run home run.

Stern, who last year as a member of the Boston Red Sox, along with his teammates, Gabe Kapler and Kevin Youkilis, became a blip on the Jewish radar watch, when the 3 entered a game in the ninth inning.

It was the only time 3 Jews were on the same playing field in a mjor league baseball match. The event is being commemorated on a set of baseball cards by the Upper Deck Company.

Who needs 'Let's Go Mets.' Why not 'Let's Go Jews!'

Jewish Life -- English Style

On Sunday, The Tottenham Hotspur English Premiership League Football team defeated the Blackburn Rovers 3-2. Who cares you say? Aside for the fact that the first half was one of the most exciting soccer matches I've ever seen and that an Egyptian named Mido scored the game winning goal, his 7th goal in the last 11 games, the game should have no relevance to any sports fan. Certainly, the game should be of no consequence to anyone interested in Jewish life. But you'd be wrong.

You see, Tottenham has been known as "the Jewish team" for quite some time now. Over the years, it's players, ownership and fans have been well represented by Jews. The gentile fans have sort of adopted the Jewish heritage onto themselves; even the players have gone along for the ride.

A friend from England who now lives in New York told me how when his sister had been an intern teacher in the English public school system, a black child from the class came over to her and exclaimed "Miss, do you know what I am?" The frum teacher replied, "No, what are you?"
The boy cried out, "I'm aYid!"

The teacher had no idea what the precocious child was referring to. Little did she know, that many Tottenham Hotspur fans referred to themselves as Yids in support for the team.

The players have also enjoyed having Jewish roots brought to the forefront.

Edgar Davids, a black player from Paramaribo, Netherlands reported in the Jerusalem Post (though I cannot find the link) that his grandmother was Jewish.

Ahmed Mido, from Cairo, can only chuckle as his name is interchanged with Yido.

The fans attending games constantly come up with chants and songs with references to the Jewish theme. Unfortunately, anti-semitic fans of some of the opposition teams rear their ugly heads, by hissing instead of booing or whistling at "the Jewish team."

Who cares, you say? Well the Tottenham fans know all too well that the hissing refers to the gas chambers -- just another opportunity for anti-semites to say 'Love you.'

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Self Hating Jewish Anti-Semite -- Making a Buck on Your Own Nation's "Tzorus"

The New York Post reports today on the furor over the invitation of Norman Finkelstein to speak at Columbia.

Mr. Finkelstein, the author of "The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering" and "Beyond Chutzpah" could have aptly used the titles of his books regarding himself.

"Exploitation," for example, is an 'expose' on how Jews are manipualting countries to fund 'innocent' countries to support the welfare of Jews. A 'proof' is that Switzerland is being forced to overpay compensation while the US is not. "Chutzpah" tries to rehash the age-old canard that disagreeing with Israel is not anti-semitism.

The chutzpah here is that these are considered scholarly works. The further Chutzpah is that its author is invited to speak at Columbia University. How long do we have to put up with these psuedo-intellectuals who are only interested in lining their pockets at the expense of others and in the long run at the expense of themselves? Why do we have to put up with these lightning rods for fame and power?

If all the monies in the world were given to Jews for the Holocaust, it would still not be enough. Even with what has been distributed today, survivors receive only a mere pittance.

Although the US could have done more for the Jews during the war. It did not participate nor was it a partner with the Germans towards the Final Solution. The Swiss, on the other hand, in just one example, were complicit with the Germans during their visit to Theresienstadt while they marvelled at "the city of the Jews." Unfortunately, the "city" was a farce where Jews were being killed by the thousands on a daily basis.

The endless conundrum where the Israelis are being compared to their Nazi persecutors and portraying the Israelis as Nazis is getting old and tired. Didn't we do away with the notion of "Zionism is racism?"

Well, Columbia never seems to get it straight. They've always had a long line of "distinguished scholars" on campus. Most notably Edward Said, the self proclaimed historian who's expertise, if any, was as an Engish professor. Should we be surprised that the great landmark of Butler Library is still named after the former President of Columbia, who often dabbled in anti-semitic diatribe?

I guess, what goes around keeps on coming around.

When will it ever stop?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Kol Yisroel Areivim Zeh Lo Zeh

A few days ago I made mention of an interview which took place on the BBC where the editor of an Egyptian daily found nothing wrong with a caricature of Anne Frank and Hitler in the same bed while at the same time being outraged regarding those caricatures depicting Mohammed in any fashion.

We have long known of the culture of the Arab world vilifying Jews. They always make excuse for it as well.

In the long run we understand the consequences of their actions -- just to mention a couple; kidnappings and murder. The latest being a Jew in France supposedly "only" kidnapped, tortured and murdered for ransom. We know better.

If not for the grace of G-d, anti-semitism could destroy us all. We have a responsibility to do everything we can to make sure that it doesn't happen and when it does, to take action so that it does not go unpunished.

A thorough article on the latest incident which is published in today's New York Times follows:

Torture and Death of Jew Deepen Fears in France


Published: March 5, 2006

BAGNEUX, France, March 3 — Two strips of red-and-white police tape bar the entrance to the low-ceilinged pump room where a young Jewish man, Ilan Halimi, spent the last weeks of his life, tormented and tortured by his captors and eventually splashed with acid in an attempt to erase any traces of their DNA.

The floor of the concrete room, in the cellar of 4, rue Serge-Prokofiev, is bare except for a few packets of rat poison, a slowly drying wet mark and a dozen small circles drawn and numbered in white chalk, presumably marking the spots where the police retrieved evidence of Mr. Halimi's ordeal.

Mr. Halimi, 23, died Feb. 13, shortly after he was found near a train station 15 miles away by passers-by, after crawling out of the wooded area where he was dumped. He was naked and bleeding from at least four stab wounds to his throat, his hands bound and adhesive tape covering his mouth and eyes. According to the initial autopsy report, burns, apparently from the acid, covered 60 percent of his body.

"I knew they had someone down there," said a young French-Arab man, loitering in the doorway of a building adjacent to the one where Mr. Halimi was held. He claimed to live upstairs from the makeshift dungeon but would not give his name or say whether he knew then that the man was a Jew. "I didn't know they were torturing him," he said. "Otherwise, I would have called the police."

But it is clear that plenty of people did know, both that Mr. Halimi was being tortured and that he was Jewish. The police, according to lawyers with access to the investigation files, think at least 20 people participated in his abduction and the subsequent, amateurish negotiations for ransom. His captors told his family that if they did not have the money, they should "go and get it from your synagogue," and later contacted a rabbi, telling him, "We have a Jew."

The horrifying death has stunned France, which has Europe's largest Muslim and largest Jewish populations. Last weekend, tens of thousands of people marched against racism and anti-Semitism in Paris, joined by the interior minister, Nicholas Sarkozy, and smaller marches took place in several other French cities, including Marseille.

In the wake of the riots that broke out in the immigrant-heavy Paris suburbs last fall, the case seems to embody the social problems of immigration, race and class that France has been facing with so much uncertainty. The emerging details raise deep fears of virulent anti-Semitism within the hardening underclass, and point to the decaying social fabric in which that underclass lives.

Those that the police say kidnapped and killed Mr. Halimi called themselves the Barbarians, and included people of different backgrounds: the children of blacks from sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, of Arabs from North Africa, of at least one Persian from Iran, and of whites from Portugal and France.

The gang's leader was a tall, charismatic young man named Youssouf Fofana, 25, one of five children born in Paris to at least nominally Muslim immigrants from Ivory Coast. When he was a teenager, the family moved to the bleak neighborhood of 12-story concrete apartment blocks where Mr. Halimi was held.

Trouble started early. He studied plumbing at a local vocational school but by the age of 16 had already begun a series of run-ins with the police, eventually racking up 13 arrests for everything from theft to fencing stolen goods. In 1999, at the age of 19, he stole a car, beating the Portuguese owner who tried to intervene. He was arrested and sentenced to his only jail term, serving two years in prisons in Nanterre and Fleury-Mérogis, neither far from Paris.

He returned to his mother's apartment and used his prison credentials to assume the role of senior tough among younger, idle men and women, people in the neighborhood say. Lawyers familiar with the case suggest that this is when the seeds of the Barbarians were sown.
By 2004, the police say, he tried extortion, aiming at prominent French Jews. When that failed, the gang apparently turned to kidnapping, using young women as bait.

The Barbarians are thought to have been behind six attempted abductions, four of Jewish men, before succeeding with Mr. Halimi.

In a case in early January, a woman tried repeatedly to get a Jewish music producer to meet her on the outskirts of Paris, finally managing instead to persuade his father to come to a suburban parking lot, on the pretext that she had music CD's that belonged to his son. Several men met the father instead, beating him senseless when he resisted their attempt to force him into their car.

Mike Akiba worked with Mr. Halimi at Voltaire Phone in Paris, one of a dozen tiny Jewish-owned cellular telephone shops along Boulevard Voltaire in the 11th Arrondissement. He said Mr. Halimi was alone in the store when a 17-year-old French-Iranian girl came in and flirted with him. Mr. Akiba said she might have thought Mr. Halimi, a handsome man with piercing brown eyes, was the owner.

Mr. Halimi told Mr. Akiba about her the next day and said he had agreed to meet her that Friday night near Porte d'Orleans, a neighborhood on Paris's southern edge. Mr. Akiba last saw him about 10:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 20, as he drove from Boulevard Voltaire in his Champagne-colored Renault Twingo.

Mr. Halimi apparently met the woman as planned, then drove her to Sceaux, a suburb near Bagneux, where his captors must have grabbed him. His car was later found abandoned in a parking lot there.

Mr. Akiba said the investigating police officers discovered the gang had tried the same tactic on several men in the other phone shops.

Mr. Halimi was taken to the Pierre-Plate housing project in Bagneux, and initially held in an empty third-floor apartment at 1, rue Serge-Prokofiev, with the help of the building's superintendent, according to the lawyers who have seen the investigative files. The gang covered his eyes and mouth with tape, leaving only a hole for a straw.

The Halimi family's first contact with the kidnappers was the night of Saturday, Jan. 21, when a gang member called Mr. Halimi's girlfriend and instructed her to log on to a Hotmail e-mail account. That began a series of agonizingly disjointed communications from Mr. Halimi's abductors that included hundreds of phone calls and e-mail messages, and ransom demands that started at $500,000 and dropped to $5,000, said the family's lawyer, Francis Szpiner.

After a few days, the gang moved their captive to the concrete basement room beneath a section of the building a few doors down. They shaved his head and sliced his cheek with a knife, photographed him with blood running down his face, and e-mailed the picture to his family.
As the days wore on, his captors turned increasingly cruel, stripping off his clothes and beating, scratching and cutting him. A burning cigarette was pressed into his forehead.

The family was instructed to send a ransom to Ivory Coast, via Western Union, and Mr. Fofana traveled to that country at least once in early February. According to reports after his eventual arrest, it was after the ransom failed to arrive that the torture of Mr. Halimi began in earnest.
The police did not yet know the identities of the gang members but were close on their heels.

Around Feb. 10, Mr. Fofana briefly visited an Internet cafe on the Rue de la Fidélité in the 10th Arrondissement, wearing a cap and a scarf that covered his mouth and nose. "I don't even think he took his gloves off," the manager said Friday. Just 15 minutes later, he said, police officers arrived looking for a black man, a computer-generated sketch in hand. They lifted fingerprints from the keyboard Mr. Fofana had used and confiscated the computer's hard drive and the 5-euro note he had paid with.

On the evening of Feb. 13, Mr. Halimi was found. It is not yet clear when he was stabbed or whether his captors thought he was dead when they dumped him among the trees behind the Ste.-Geneviève-des-Bois train station south of Paris.

Two days later, with the case beginning to make shocking headlines, Mr. Fofana flew back to Ivory Coast and was soon moving freely about town with a girlfriend, identified by the French media as Mariam Cissé. Meanwhile, the police had begun circulating sketches of two women who had served the gang as bait, drawn from the recollections of the men who had been approached.
One was the 17-year-old French-Iranian believed to have lured Mr. Halimi to his death. The sketch of a second woman proved particularly accurate, and when it was shown on television, many people recognized her as Audrey Lorleach, 24, lawyers involved in the case say.

Fearing she would be caught, Ms. Lorleach turned herself in and led the police to her boyfriend, Jérôme Tony Ribeiro, a young man of Portuguese descent. He gave the police Mr. Fofana's name.

When Mr. Fofana saw his name and image in the French media the next day, he was enraged and called Mr. Halimi's father and girlfriend and various of his accomplices in France from Abidjan, threatening them all — and confirming his whereabouts to the police. He was arrested on Feb. 22. [Mr. Fofana was returned to France on Saturday after being handed over to French custody by Ivorian authorities, Agence France-Presse reported.]

So far, a total of 19 people, ages 17 to 39, have been arrested in connection with Mr. Halimi's abduction and death, including the French-Iranian woman, whose first name is Yalda.
The police found Islamist literature and documents supporting a Palestinian aid group in the home of at least one of the people arrested, but lawyers involved in the case dismiss Islamic extremism as a motivation, noting that many of the people involved were not Muslim. The Halimis' lawyer, Mr. Szpiner, denied French news reports that the gang had called Mr. Halimi's family and recited the Koran.

Mr. Fofana has admitted his involvement. In an interview videotaped by a local journalist at the police station in Abidjan and broadcast on French television, a smiling, relaxed Mr. Fofana denied that he killed Mr. Halimi and dismissed the anti-Semitic aspect of the abduction.
"It was done for financial ends," he said on the tape.

Standing in the doorway in Bagneux near where Mr. Halimi was held, the young French-Arab man smiled when asked about Mr. Fofana. "He was nice, everybody liked him," he said. "If the police bring him back here, the guys in the neighborhood will liberate him."

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Tipping the Scales -- How Much is Too Much?

My friend went to see his nephew play in an elementary school hockey game between two modern orthodox Yeshivoth. Both teams had poor records. The visiting team had one win versus seven losses while the home team had zero wins versus seven losses. With 27 seconds left in the contest, and the home team winning 4-3, the visiting team apparently scored a goal which evened the match at 4-4. But play continued until the buzzer sounded.

Being that one referee was absent for the contest, the other referee missed the goal and did not stop the action. At the moment of the score, the visiting team screamed in celebration. When play did not stop, the home team tried to act as if there was no score.

At the conclusion of the game, my friend who's nephew played for the now "losing" visiting squad ran over to the coach of the home team, the coach also being a Rebbi in the Yeshiva. My friend asked the Rebbi incredulously about the goal. The Rebbi said "I didn't see it go in."
The Rebbi then turned to his players and asked "Did you see any goal?" The response was a bunch of sheepish looks followed by silence. "I guess there wasn't any goal, then."
My friend walked away with his nephew feeling that he was had.

Did the Rabbi see the goal? Was there one even scored? Was the Rabbi trying to protect his kids? Was there a lack of sportsmanship? Was a lesson being presented to children on both sides that would have immense ramifications later. I don't know. I wasn't there. I'm not a mind reader and I can't predict the future.

However, after glancing at a book called "Off The Derech -- Why Observant Jews Leave Judaism," by Faranak Margolese and listening to a shiur by Dr. Shnayer Leiman, I began wondering about some of things we do for the "benefit" or Chinuch of others.

Margelese' thoughts on why we lose too many of our youth is the following:

If there isn't enough positive feelings, belief and implementation ability given over to Jewish children by parents, teachers and friends, children can go off the derech. On the other hand, in order to stay the course, it doesn't matter how much of the three factors exist in the child, just as long as they all combine to keep the child on the Derech.

For example, even if you have an emotionally battered child but he/she has enough intellect and/or belief to compensate, the child will remain frum. On the other hand, a child with a positive self-image or a child instilled with strong belief can compensate for a lack in having an intellectual understanding in Yahuduth.

As long as the combination of the three factors is enough to reach the level needed, which she calls the 100% level (i.e. the total of the three factors add up to the level needed for the child to remain frum), then the child will do so. In other words, all actions taken will either bring a child closer to or further away from the "Derech."

Dr. Leiman's shiur further piqued my interest in this area.

The Shiur began with the introduction of a scholarly Halachic periodical entitled "Ohr Yisroel," where a question was raised if one is allowed to "make up" stories about the "Gedolim" if it will show a positive attribute to be emulated, i.e. a lesson to be learned. After quoting from many sources, the author concluded in the affirmative. However, Dr. Leiman, seemed to differ. His shiur which was based on an article by a Rabbi Mondoshine posed the following:

Ruchama Shain, in a book published in 1990 called "Reaching the Stars," had a supposedly true story where the names of the protagonists were changed to protect the privacy of these individuals.

Basically, the story was regarding a Yeshiva Bochur who wanted to do some research on a topic. He was told that he would find what he was looking for at Hebrew University.

Being a 'good Yeshiva boy' he had never been to a University. He knew, however, that he would probably be at the University for many hours, so he packed himself a lunch and he was on his way.

At some point in his research, he decided to take a break. He went over to a water fountain to wash. He ate his food and Benched by heart and 'out loud.' A librarian came over in a huff and accosted him for eating in a Library, disturbing the solitude of the Library and for Benching incorrectly.

The Bochur apologized by saying he did not know that one could not eat in a Library and did not know that silence had to be maintained in the reading room. But incredulously he asked what mistake had he made in the wording of his benching.

The Librarian told him that in the Rachem portion he added the words V'Lo Nikosheil similar to the words in Ahavas Olam. He then smiled and said that this was his minhag and he is sure it would be found in some Benchers.

She then pulled off the shelves many of the Siddurim in the Library and dared him to find it. He could not. This probably bothered him a great deal, so he made it his business to find his nusach in some Siddur.

Eventually, he went to Mea Shearim, found a Siddur, made a photocopy, circled the V'Lo Nikosheal, placed arrows pointing to it, all in red ink and sent it off to the Librarian. But he didn't hear from her.

A few years later, he received a wedding invitation. It was in Yerushalayim, so he decided to go even though he didn't know who sent the invitation. At the wedding, he saw no one he knew -- neither on the Men's side nor on the Woman's side. (it was probaly a Chareidi Wedding -- no mixed seating.) But someone spotted him and came over to him.

He was told that the Kallah wanted to meet him. He went over to her but he didn't recognize her. The Kallah then told him that she was the Librarian and his letter arrived just at the moment when she was receiving a marriage proposal from an Arab whom she was planning to wed.

When she saw the Yeshiva Bochur's note and the words V'Lo Nikoshail circled in red she had a change of heart and became frum.

Nice Story? It was repeated many times in other volumes over the next 15 years with minor variations where the Yeshiva Bochur was actually a famous Gadol and other minor discrepancies.

Yet the story supposedly first appeared in print with the 1990 publication.

Dr. Leiman then pulled out a 1937 volume by Shai Agnon. In it was the same story of sorts except that the girl was a doctoral thesis student from Germany who had come to eat at the Agnon's house in Eretz Yisroel.

After completing the meal, he began benching and she corrected him when he said V'Lo Nikoshail. Agnon said that this was his father's minhag. She retorted that's impossible and that he would not find this nusach anywhere.

Sometime afterwards, on Agnon's father's Yartzeit he went to buy a new Siddur to use during the davening. While searching, he came across a Bencher which looked quite similar to one used at his father's table in Poland. Lo and behold, it had V'Lo Nikoshail.

Agnon was so excited, he sent the Bencher off to Germany with a congratulatory note to the young woman for receiving her doctorate.

Yet that was not the end of the story. Years later, the woman said she was coming to make Aliyah with her future husband and that she would be honored if Agnon could attend their wedding. At the end of Sheva Brochot, she handed him a leather bound jeweled encrusted Sefer.

It was the Bencher.

Agnon exclaimed how he had bought the Bencher for a few Prutahs and now she encases it in such an ornate binding. The young woman replied, that she received Agnon's note just at the moment when she was about to marry a fellow gentile student. When she opened the note and saw V'Lo Nikoshail encircled in red, it changed her life. The Sefer certainly deserved to be bejeweled and he deserved to have it.

If you didn't know by now, Shai Agnon was a fiction writer. But not all of the story was fictitious.
The minhag of his father was true.

Dr. Leiman pointed out that in the back of the Shulchan Aruch on Halochos of Brachos, there is a commentary from the Rav of the Polish town where Agnon and his family lived.

The Rav comments that he had a minhag to say V'Lo Nikoshail in Rachem but had no source for it. He also did not recommend anyone else to follow his minhag.

Nevertheless,what ever you believe, the entire piece is a great story.

But in response to the article in "Ohr Yisroel" the current ADMAR from Slonim wrote in the next issue that a Rebbi should not change the facts to suit the moral because the morals of the Torah are based on Emes. [Of course, for Darchei Shalom, you don't have to spill the beans on everything. If your wife has a new hat, you don't have to tell her how ugly you think it looks.] The ADMAR quoted a story from the Peshvorsk Rav who had broken his arm and gave out a 'krechts' (a wail) during davening.

Afterwards, he called together his Talmidim to explain why he yelled out. They responded it wasn't necessary to explain. But he said it was. He yelled out because of the pain and not because he had more Kavanah. He did not want any of his students to have a false impression less at some time in the future they feel he wasn't being truthful about this and that possibly he wasn't being truthful about everything else he taught them.

So how far do we push someone for their benefit? Are we pushing them for our benefit? Does the end justify the means? Maybe.

Maybe not.

You be the judge.