Monday, April 20, 2009

What is Chavez's address?

At the Summit of the Americas Hugo Chavez gave Obama a copy of Galeano'a Open Veins of Latin America. Though I have not read it, the book is, by all accounts, an account of how the capitalists failed to help Latin America, and how they must therefore be the cause of all the world's ills. The book became an instant best seller on Amazon, as anything a big leftist thug endorses publicly will start to fly off the shelves. Chavez did this before with one of Chomsky's books.

Obama replied with some lame joke about thinking that Chavez wrote a book and wanted to give him one of his own books in exchange. At least I think this was a joke.

When I am in uniform I always carry a copy a copy of the US Constitution in my arm-pocket. It reminds me what I swore allegiance too, and why. One likes to believe that any American president always has some snippets of the Federalist Papers running through his head. this is a document that Chavez could learn a lot from. It tells us that there needs to be a balance of power in a state, and that there is a way to make a country work without a dictator and with political liberties.

What Obama should have done is have his people rush to the nearest Barnes and Noble to purchase a deluxe edition of the Federalist Papers to give to Chavez in exchange. As a matter of fact, if I don't hear about Obama doing that, I will.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Communist protest

There is some sort of big pro-communist protest right outside our madrid hotel.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In Girona

Commemorating Nachmonides in Girona; in the jewish calle.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Today ¨D¨and I visited Girona.  It is a beautiful city, like Barcelona.  But visiting the tiny mideval section was particulary interesting.  We saw some nice famous cathedral and the Jewish Museum.  We explored the streets Nachmonides used to walk.  We took in the sights of a Jewish community that was there from ancient times through 1492.I would recommend a visit.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bike tour

Today ¨D¨ and I took¨a nice bike tour around Barcelona.  It was fun, for a bike tour.  I´d reccommend it if you want to see all the main attractions without really having to look at them.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

In Barcelona

¨D¨and I have arrived in beautiful Barcelona where everything seems to be on hold for some local holiday.  More details to follow. We are doing fine and the plane ride was not that terrible.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Birchat HaChama in Brooklyn Heights

Today is a peculiar day in the Jewish calendar. It is the day that we recite Birchat Hachama. We commemorate the biblical creation of the Sun by saying some blessings, and singing and dancing in the streets. It is a rare holiday, occurring only once every 28 years on the morning before Passover.

I vividly remember doing this 28 years ago on Ocean Parkway around avenue O with the "Tenker" rebbe (the father, not the son) and his shul, the one we prayed in back then. I remember a big assembly on the roof of Torah Temimah, the Brooklyn school I attended at the time. The assembly was led by the late Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum. School was fairly anticlimactic after the singing and dancing on Ocean Parkway with the synagogue.

Brooklyn's weather was nicer last time, but this time was nice too. Our synagogue celebrated near the windy steps of Boro Hall with our esteemed Boro President Marty Markowitz making a nice short speech and reciting the blessing.

Truth be told, the whole thing does sound very much like some Pagan Sun-worshiping ritual. We do the same for the moon once a month too. But it is still nice, and the rarity of the holiday makes it all the more special. I look forward to doing it again in 2037.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Afikomen story

Here is a story that is told to little Jewish children when they are in school. It is told of different people, though I remember it told of the Vilna Gaon. It goes as follows: Little Elija (or whoever) stole the afikomen from his father as per the usual custom. When the time came to eat it the father asked for the afikomen back. Little Elija demanded an unusually large ransom in exchange for the return of the afikomen. The father - almost too quickly - agreed to the demands. So the father promises a gift and Little Elija produces the Matzoh.

Everyone is feeling a bit smug when the time comes for the father to distribute the matzoh. But the father refuses to give a piece to Little Elija. The father demands that in exchange for a piece of the afikomen, he be released from his obligation to produce a present. Not one to be outdone, Little Elija then produced a small piece of the original afikomen and declared that he had anticipated this, and broke off a piece before the exchange.

That story is supposed to illustrate how clever the Vilna Gaon was as a child. But there are a number of problems with this. Foremost, Little Elija negotiated in bad faith. The father was negotiating for what he presumed to be the whole afikomen which he left for the child to "steal". But the child was only negotiating for part of the afikomen. Clearly he intended to keep part of it for himself. So he was dishonest from the beginning. Clever, yes. Dishonest, definitely! This kid also clearly grew up in a household where there was no trust between father and son, as the father was also negotiating in bad faith. The usual assumption is that the father will distribute the afikomen to the whole household. But the father demonstrated that he did not intend on doing this unless he was released from his promise.

Was this kind of negotiating normal in the household? Who taught such intense distrust for your own family? Was there some life lesson that they were supposed to be teaching each other?

So we have one of those classic stories that we tell all Jewish children that essentially describes the house that one of our sages grew up in as a den of crooks and theives. Cleverness apparently consists in figuring out how to cheat your father before he cheats you.

What kind of messages are we sending to young Jewish children?