Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Shoveling snow on Shabbat, '09 version

I'm copying and pasting a big chunk of the first version of this post. Not because it's so eloquent that it needs to be repeated, but so that I don't have to bother paraphrasing it. There's some new stuff at the end.

Snowy sidewalks are no big deal in themselves, but they become icy sidewalks after they've been walked on for a while, and those things are dangerous.

When it's necessary to shovel on Shabbat, I always do so, wearing socks on my hands as a shinnui. I haven't asked a rabbi about this, and this is out of respect for the rabbinate--I want to save them the embarrassment of possibly giving the wrong answer.

As a side note, I once told a friend, former and (I hope) future havrusa and/or hevruta, and ethical adviser about this. He (who lives in an apartment where the landlord is responsible for shoveling, so it's not his problem) said he thought this a fine idea. Since it's just me, he said, I should do it without any distinctive Jewish accessories visible. If, however, I were R' Gedalia Dov Schwartz, av beit din of the RCA and the Chicago Rabbinical Council, who lives a few blocks away, I should do it looking like I was R' Gedalia Dov Schwartz so everyone would know it's OK. I take his point, although I should point out that if I were R' Gedalia Dov Schwartz, I wouldn't need his advice.

And now the new stuff. This last Shabbat morning, there was a layer of slush on the sidewalk. I ignored it, since it was Shabbat, and what would the people coming to lunch think? By Sunday morning, the slush had turned into solid ice with footprints.

So let's imagine that someone had injured themselves on the ice that I piously left there, and let's further imagine that I'd passed away and had to face the Heavenly Tribunal.

Members of the Tribunal (M"T): Well, what about this Mr. McNotzreigh who got injured on your ice?

Me: Sorry about that, but only a little, since I was observing Shabbat.

M"T: Very nice.

(I assume the M"T are Orthodox Jews, among whom "very nice" means "yeah, right, whatever.")

Right. Well, very nice. But next time, I'm going to do what needs to be done and forgo the after-the-fact teshuvah.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thanks, guys

Well, I've finished the eleven months of kaddish for my mother. Underestimating, we have twenty-two minyanim a week (which includes Shabbat mussaf, but none of the mussafim for other special days, or ne'ilah), four weeks in a month (an underestimate for ten of the eleven months), and eleven months. This comes to more than 968 minyanim. Vey'z mir. Why do I mention this? Because I don't think I was ever in a minyan that included ten people saying kaddish. In other words, kaddish is made possible by people who show up who aren't saying kaddish. Thank you, fellers.

In the past, I mostly davened at home except for Shabbat and yom tov. I'm now going to daven in shul more often. Not with the same sense of urgency as in the eleven months, but several times a week.

Thanks again.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Yiddishkeit and Hebreishkeit in Toronto, Canada (respectively)

This seems odd to me. The title page of R' Abraham Price's Canadian edition of Sefer Hasidim twice refers to Toronto, Canada, as

טאראנטא קנדה.

The reason this seems, as I was just saying, odd to me is that "Toronto" is spelled in Yiddish style, and "Canada" is spelled in Hebrew style.

Anyone out there have any idea why they might have done things this way?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Since they're not doing some sort of touchy-feely (as it were) ecumenical religious discussion, this must be OK

Roman Catholic and Orthodox Jewish officials in New York are mounting an intense lobbying effort to block a bill before the State Legislature that would temporarily lift the statute of limitations for lawsuits alleging the sexual abuse of children. (from Paul Vitello, "Religious Leaders Battle Abuse Bill in New York," New York Times, March 11, 2009; free registration may be needed)

Tip o' the yarmulka to the ever-informative Religion Clause for this post.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hear hear

Professor Haym Soloveitchik, writing in the Tradition Seforim blog:

Intellectual engagement entails reciprocity of exposure. To criticize others behind a shield of anonymity is to my thinking craven and unworthy of a scholar or talmid hakham.

Friday, February 06, 2009


While waiting for a minyan recently, I heard someone say "'Frum Conservative Jew' is an oxymoron." I looked up long enough to see what looked like a satisfied smile from the utterer.

Yeahyeahyeah, I've heard it all before. "Reform Judaism" is an oxymoron, "Conservative Judaism" is an oxymoron, "Orthodox Judaism" is an oxymoron, "religious non-Orthodox Jew" is an oxymoron, "Modern Orthodox Jew" is an oxymoron....

This isn't an argument; it's a slogan. (I use the singular since they're all the same.) It's not an enlightening slogan; it won't win anyone over, all it will do is get the speaker a pat on the keppeleh--sorry, the keppi--from those who already agree. And it isn't a clever or original slogan; it's just a cliché (sorry).

It's sad that we're in attack mode so often, and "oxymoron!" as slogan is used in no other mode. And it's incredibly lame.

And yes, I know this isn't just a Jewish thing.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Delicately stated

A devar Torah that I heard this Shabbat ended with something like this (and this isn't a direct quote, but I'm pretty sure I got all the key stuff right): Every life is infinitely precious. Thirteen Israelis were killed in the recent war, and we grieve for all of them. And we thank Hashem that there were no more deaths than that.

Every life is infinitely precious--how beautiful, how very enlightened. A speaker with less delicate sensibilities might have said that every Jewish life is infinitely precious.