Friday, April 22, 2005

A parting thought

As I sit here gazing at my pristine kitchen, the sublime smell of heavenly cuisine wafts slowly towards me, like a vestal virgin stretching forth her arm enticingly, a small dove, a doveling even, rises like a phoenix from the ashes of my blackened, dirty, sinful heart, carries on its tiny fledgeling wings this heartfelt prayer on the arduos journey to the Throne of Glory:

Lord, I have travelled a torturous road to get here today. I don't always succeed, I often stumble and fall. But like the wino who won't quit, I too try and follow your words, I drink them thirstily, though sometimes I sleep in the gutter and fail my destiny.

G-d, You created us human. You granted within our hearts the ability to do incredible good, and to wreak eternal havoc. You have the power to put difficult obstacles in our way, stumbling blocks before the blind, or to help us, assist us carry out Your word.

I am asking You today, and I call upon the entire blogworld as my witnesses, like Heaven and Earth. If You want to see me fulfill my potential, to live out my life the way it was meant to be, then send me a helpmate, a partner on this spritiual quest for the holy grail of fulfillment of Your Word. Tovim Hashnayim Mehaechad. Lo Tov Heyot Adam Levado. Tav Lemetav. You know who she is, You declared it thirty days before I was born. Send her my way. Someone strong, with character and passion for Your Torah and for Your world, someone who will understand me and where I come from, someone who will join me on my travels towards being the person You intended me to be.

For those of you who have found that person, hold them, squeeze them, cherish them, love them.

The rest of us can just pray.

Chag Sameach.


Egg Matzos people

According to the Aruch Hashulchan you can use egg matzot (Matzah Ashira) over shabbat, even after the time to stop eating chametz, so don't go crazy eating your bread roll in the corner of the room into a plastic bag, don't bench and eat again at 9.30 in the morning. You can rely on the Arush Hashulchan - I'll take full responsibility for that.


Remove the chometz in your soul

The chometz of bigotry, the leaven of hatred, the bread of ignorance, the rising of violence.

Seek it wherever it may be. It's not enough to be mevatel, to annul it by mere words. You must cast it away, destroy it.

May we merit to see us exit physical, emotional and spiritual slavery into the light and radiance of redemption, personal, national and universal.


Thursday, April 21, 2005

One of the best short stories I've ever read

I picked up an old edition of Commentary magazine recently, the October 2004 edition. It has a short story by Mark Helprin called "Perfection" about a young Chassidic boy who plays baseball for the Yankees. I've read it twice, and it is a heart-warming, gripping and insightful story. Quite simply incredible.

I also loved Oscar Wilde's The Birthday of the Infanta, and The Happy Prince. I can't believe this is the same author that wrote Dorian Grey, one of the most decadent novels ever written. Maybe there's a documentary hypothesis for Wilde?

Just thought I'd share that with you. Thanks for listening.


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Thank G-d for the Internet

Try going back in time thirty, fifty, hundred years and telling people that one day soon each person in their home will have access to the biggest repository of information ever. Instant, very cheap access, with a phenomenal search engine supplied by a magic thing called a google. They wouldn't believe you. Rightly so.

I still love books, will continue to buy up ridiculous amounts of them on numerous subjects, but the internet has changed the way I research and reference stuff. Every so often I take a step back and allow my mind to be boggled by the overwhelming nature of the internet.

Like many consequences of modern technology, it has phenomenal potential for good or for bad. I don't need to tell anyone what the bad aspect is. But stop and think about the good. Some people remember the days when you had to go hunting high and low for an idea in an encyclopaedia. Best we could manage was to suck on a damp piece of cloth. I used to get up in the morning, work 29 hours at mill for no pay, come home, eat a bag of gravel and our mum and our dad would put us to sleep by killing us and jumping up and down on our graves - if we were lucky! Sorry, this relatively serious post has been hijacked. But by whom? I want you to name all of them (including the dead one).


Work or learn?

Yes, that old chestnut. I just want to quote for you a short piece of Gemara that is very relevant and instructive because it shows both sides of the debate. Most of you might know it already but it doesn't hurt to do Chazara.

I will summarize Berachot 35b. R' Yishmael (great name, can you imagine anyone using it nowadays???) says that you should combine the study of Torah with a wordly occupation (as per the Soncino translation - I prefer it to Arthur Scroll any day, despite its archaicness (word?)), based on the verse in the Shema that says "you shall gather up your corn", which he views as an imperative.

Bar Yochai differs and claims that if you plough in the ploughing season and harvest in the harvesting season etc, what will happen to the study of Torah? Torah must take precedence, and if you peform G-d's will He will arrange that the work is taken care of.

Two conflicting viewpoints as to the primacy of Torah and the desirability of devoting one's life to study.

Abaye mediates between them and states that many followed Rabbi Yishmael and succeeded, while many followed Bar Yochai and failed. Bar Yochai's programme is geared towards the upper echelon, the elite, the creme de la creme. Rabbi Yishmael's works for the Joe Shmos, the hoi polloi, the reasonable man on the Clapham Omnibus (any educated people know where that is from?), the average bochur, the masses, the herd, the prols.

I accept that one can often find a source for any viewpoint in the Gemara, but this sugya fascinates me because it presents both viewpoints and says that one didn't work for the masses. It should be obvious by now where my sympathies lie. I'll probably post on this issue again, with relation to the situation in Israel specifically.


Have you stopped beating your wife?

The title is one of those smart-arse questions you ask when someone says "ask me whatever you want, I don't mind". But in all seriousness, this is a subject that scares the living daylights out of me. I've seen that females often stay with guys who are bad for them, for all sorts of crazy reasons. I just can't imagine what it must be like to live in a home where your husband physically abuses you, beats you, smacks you and goodness knows what else.

As a teenager I once had to use "reasonable force" on a guy who felt it necessary to hit a girl. He tried to claim that she deserved it, but after twisting his arm around just a gentle amount (I'm not advocating violence, I'm a big pacifist softie but I felt it was justified here) I threateningly growled into his ear "don't you EVER hit a girl again". Yes, big bad TRK saves the day and rescues the damsel in distress. She ended up dating my best friend (a familiar tale).

Being a single guy who worships women, I can't have the perspective necessary to help people suffering from this. I wish I had the right words. I'll read over this in the future and with 20/20 hindsight kick myself for not writing something deep and meaningful. I'll stick with GET HELP. GET OUT. Talk to someone. Please. I don't believe there is one argument you can possibly make that can justify what he is doing to you.

As for the rest of us, keep an eye out. I might be naive in thinking it can't happen to anyone I know, but I will try and be more aware. We have to be open as a community. Do we need more shelters and trained psychologists, especially those who are sympathetic and understanding of the religious lifestyle? Let's get them. We must stand up and be counted, we cannot allow the communal leaders and Rabbis to sweep it under the carpet for "Sholom Bayit" or "Chillul Hashem" reasons. Support the woman and send the b******d to rot in jail. After taking away his money and giving it to her and the kids. If that doesn't happen I hereby volunteer to pay him a visit with my friend mr. baseball bat. And that coming from a pacifist softie. Anyone else willing to volunteer?


Eschatological Events

I am worried. It seems there are some people out there in the blogosphere (and in real life I guess) who are making bold predictions about the arrival of the Messiah, the impending war of Gog and Magog, etc. They are linking it to various world events, especially the upcoming disengagement plan.

I'm not going to delve into politics at all. I am just worried that such talk on a large scale can lead to mass hysteria and have damaging long-term effects for some parts of the Jewish religious world. I hope I am being totally hyper-sensitive to this kind of talk and my knowledge of Jewish history is not causing me to be overly suspicious when these "predictions" surface.


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Catharsis of blogging

Yes it does actually work sometimes. I recommend it. I've posted a few times on personal issues that I deal with, for example here, here and my mission statement that I keep going back to and reading because it helps. Truth is, I think I am still pretty anonymous, though I'm not 100% sure anymore.

As well as the ability to get things off my chest, without having to feel overly embarrassed, I have also been blessed with many encouraging comments. Guys, you are my confessional. My Priest, Rabbi, Imam all rolled into one. You give me strength when I am weak and pick me up when I fall.

I know that if I can overcome one or two of the more vicious vices in my life, I can go some way to fulfilling my potential and really making a difference. As Pirkey Avot says, you can never know the long-term effect of one constructive comment, a kind word, smiling at someone, helping them. So keep them coming and thanks.


Where is the love?

Love is all you need.

Show me the love.

Love the one you are with.

Let's overcompensate by showing too much love.

Love is free.

Love is timeless, eternal, all-encompassing.

Love yourself.

Love your friend.

Love your friend as much as you love yourself.

We all need love so spread it around.

Open your heart to the one you love.


Bas Torah has been abducted by the Alien thought police

Bas Torah has suddenly disappeared, taking her entire blog with her. Conspiracy theories abound. Has she eloped to South America with one of the guys she met on the blog? Have aliens abducted her having decided she is a suitable target to probe? Have the thought police finally tracked her down using the latest equipment, thereby preventing her from corrupting impressionable young women by telling them that they are allowed to enjoy sex?

For those who don't know she provided a forum for some open, frank and sometimes lurid discussions about marital intimacy, mainly amongst religious people. Since I am one of the three blogs linked to, I feel I should do something about it.

I'm happy to have people blog here and discuss whatever they need to, but being the hormone-ravaged single guy I am, it's probably not such a good idea. I'd probably feel the need to throw in below the belt comments, crack dirty jokes, poke fun at those guys who can't please their women or those frigid hags who don't enjoy doing it. See, it's started already. So you are best off going to Shlomy's blog for that. He has no problem discussing issues of an explicit sexual nature and has shown himself sufficiently mature to edit a blog that people find offensive. So go tell him all your dirty details. Don't worry, I will be reading them too.

Bas, if you are reading this, BT call home. we are worried about you. If something serious happened we'd like to help you.


"I get knocked down but I get up again", "Nofel Vekam, Nofel Vekam Nofel Vekam"

Kudos to anyone who can name the two disparate bands quoted in the title, one is an anarchist bunch of lefties and the other is a now-defunct Israeli hip hop group.

Torah first confessions later. Something relevant I just heard: Shemot 12:15 - "Ach Beyom Harishon Tashbitu Se'or Mibateychem" - The first day (of Pesach) you should get rid of your chometz. The first day??? Rashi explains that "the first day" actually refers to Erev Pesach, the day before. Any reason it is called the first day? During pesach, we have to remember what we were before. We were bad. We were esconsed in a world of idol-worship, slavery and low morals. We've all had times when we weren't as close to G-d. "Sheva Yipol Tsaddik Vekam". A righteous man falls seven times but gets up again. David Hamelech struggled as well. He had to overcome his temptations. "You're never gonna keep me down". Haderech Haaruka Umefutelet" - the long and windy road. Many pitfalls and potholes along the way. A yeridah letsorech aliyah. The breaking of the first tablets.

Every day is a winding road for me. Constantly faced with challenges, sometimes new but mainly old. The bugbear of lust, my bete noire of apathy. I can't tell you what level of Tumah I am currently on, but it's not 49 and it's not 1. Things like minyan, learning, treating women right, berachot, being organized, exercise (yes, even exercise is a religious issue - another post topic), caring for others are all a greater part of my life now. But I've had numerous "turning points" in recent years. Every single one until this most recent one failed in some way. Yet they made me stronger.

Maybe the support of my blogreaders and commenters - thank you to all of you by the way, keep them coming - will help me continue pushing my Sisyphian (word?) ball up the hill of life. Is there a top? Will I be forever destined to push and slip back, push and slip back? Shuvu banim shovevim. I often envisage myself struggling with the "ish" inside me, underwater, and when I can get free of my ish holding my ankle keeping me back I will break through the shimmering surface of the sea, into the glorious radiance of G-d's sun. Lord give me strength to make it.


Monday, April 18, 2005

Peter Singer, Charity and Religious Millionaires

During a course in moral philosophy in college I was introduced to the maverick outlandish philosophy of Peter Singer. He holds incredibly fascinating viewpoints and really takes moral relativism and utilitarianism to its extreme, though some would argue its logical conclusion.

The article we discussed was one he wrote in 1972 called "Famine, Affluence and Morality" (summary here and news article here). Briefly put, he argues that we should donate as much as necessary to reduce famine and poverty, evils which we agree should be reduced, "at least up to the point at which by giving more one would begin to cause serious suffering for oneself and one's dependents". That isn't an easy point to define, but the argument goes as follows; faced with buying the latest CD or clothing, or giving that same $15 to a child that was dying outside the music store and needs only $15 to live, most of us would give the money to the child and forego the CD (and then we would go home and burn it off bit-torrent, but that's for a different post). Now the geographical distance between the child dying outside the record store and the child dying of starvation in Tsunami-hit Asia or Aids and poverty ravaged Africa shouldn't make any difference from a moral point of view. Singer calls this the "Pond Case".

I definitely understand his approach and agree with it theoretically. There are various arguments against it but I'm not convinced by them. I'm also not going to delve into the practical issues per se of solving poverty, disease and famine. Relevant points but not for here. I am also going to stay away from the issue as to whether the government should enforce this morality, though I touched on it here.

As a religious Jew, I am looking for some philosophical answers in the Jewish tradition. Firstly, we believe "Aniyey Ircha Kodmim" - the poor of your town take precedence. I understand this idea intuitively and emotionally, but cannot argue for it philosophically without resorting to the safety net theory.

Secondly, we hold that one should give 10% to charity, and no more than 20%. The argument is made that giving away more could cause us to become impoverished ourselves. ("An unusually wealthy person is permitted to give more than a fifth of his money to Tzedakah, since doing so will most likely not cause him to become impoverished (based on TOSFOS in Bava Kama 9b, DH Ileima"). The last link has a number of sources that imply one could (should?) give away more than a fifth.

Nowadays, thank G-d, there are many wealthy, G-d fearing Jews. Hashem provides well for some people. Successful in business, they give generously to charity. I cannot criticise them. I am not in their shoes (leather Guccis?). But I think about Singer's argument, and I ask - do these people need the latest car, the fanciest clothes, the biggest house? Do we really think that if they donated half their earnings and had to live off half a million they would become poor? Surely (don't call me shirley - film ref anyone?) they can survive like normal people on a normal salary, and they can do even more good by donating more of their income to worthy causes? How can one justify the latest $100,000 Lexus when a $20,000 car gets you wherever you need to go just as well, but in less style, and that $80,000 you save can support families in Kollel, buy food for Pesach, help towards curing cancer, save thousands of lives in Africa, etc etc? How does a religious person justify to G-d that Lexus?

I'm not sure if I totally follow this theory myself and whether I would do so if I was a millionaire (any volunteers willing to help me test that theory?), but I don't do anything extravagant or own anything ostentatious as far as I know. I holiday at a decent but basic level, when I eat out I go to good but cheap places most of the time, yet I am sure that people could level the same criticism of me, do I need to holiday? eat out? purchase CDs?

I don't have the answer. Do you?


I think I understand Shelo Asani Ishah - and another Pesach rant

You're stuck with a layabout husband who does nothing around the house. Monthly pains. A constant cycle of washing, cleaning, laundry, cooking, shopping, ironing. Pushing something that big through something that small. Constantly treated as an inferior - intellectually, financially, religiously. A second class citizen. If you haven't got a proper job on top of that then you are "just" a housewife. Merely a homemaker. I think I'm beginning to understand the Berachah Shelo Asani Ishah - thank you G-d for not making me a woman.

Then comes Pesach. It's not enough that you have to clean up and cook 6 meals for lots of people. No, we insist that every piece of dust is hustled out of the house. Dirt genocide. Ethnic cleansing of anything that may be mistaken for leaven by Mr. Magoo. A husband who can't help because he is too busy finding more things to be machmir about, to cause you more misery and agony. I'm going to say it again, and I demand every Rabbi repeats it ad infinitum. DUST IS NOT CHOMETZ. Shout it from the rooftops. Declare it in the press. Nail it to synagogue doors across the land written 95 times in big red letters by morning or I'll chop your balls off (film quote anyone?).

Wow, that felt good. If I help relieve the pressure one little bit for an overworked overstressed underappreciated unreimbursed person out there, I will have done my job.

Finally, to cheer you up before the impending redemption from cleaning and cooking, you must check out these two darn funny musical cartoons about Pesach - 50 cent comes to Seder and who let the Jews out.


Hakol Bidey Shamayim - Everything is in the Hands of G-d

I see that there is not enough Torah on this blog - as a Rabbi's Kid, scion of a great Rabbinic family and product of some quality Yeshivot, I've decided to put a few pieces up, but not your regular run of the mill Divrey Torah, rather interesting ideas and food for thought (mmmmmm, food).

I'm not going to delve into the age old question of free-will and determinism quite yet. A similar question faced by many belief systems is the issue of human action against divine intervention. Bitachon vs Hishtadlut. Hishtadlut wins 3-0 in overtime. One phrase in Gemara Berachot 33b has majorly influenced my way of thinking. It says "Hakol Bidey Shamayim Chutz Miyirat Shamayim" which means everything is in the Hands of G-d except for the Fear of Heaven (G-d).

One can intepret this axiom in many ways. I utilize it to mean that I should work, earn a living, do my bit, but ultimately whatever comes to me is a gift from Heaven, a grant, a test even. I don't deserve it. It's not really mine. If I have money, it is for me to use charitably, lending money to friends, buying presents for family, taking people out for dinner. If anyone needs to use or borrow something of mine, they can do so. It's not mine. It comes from Heaven. If I have material wealth I have to use it properly. And if I don't, so be it. I'll live. I just have to worry about doing my bit, and making sure I recognize that it all comes from above.


Thursday, April 14, 2005

It must be love

Despite my cynicism towards weddings, I recently merited to be at a wedding of two people who were quite obviously madly in love. It was palpable under the Chuppah, when they looked into each other's eyes, during the speeches. You could feel it. I am also pretty sure that they refrained from touching beforehand.

It may have restored my faith in marriage and in me finding Rebbetsin RK (more on her another time).


Devil thy name is Laziness

Procrastination. I hate you.

Indolence. I despise you.

Apathy. I abhor you.

why oh why can't we be the one who we are meant to be?

the to-do list piles up in my head

work is a four-letter word

I want to break free

these chains of life

will I fulfill my potential, or be another waste of space?

time will tell


I will make a great Dad

No, this isn't a profile on jdate. I really will. Kids love me, it must be because we communicate on the same level. I also love a lifestyle of sleeping, eating and one or two other things that I won't bring up here. But also I'm fun with them, I make faces, I can make them laugh, I can empathize with older kids, especially when it comes to education. I know what it's like to go through an education at school were no one really takes an interest in what you have to say, the questions you need answers for.

I hope I'll make a great husband. I'd like to think that I am kind, thoughtful, intelligent, caring, loving, passionate etc. I have bags and bags of love to give. Truckloads. Oceans full. Galaxies worth. But I don't know how good a hubby I'll be. And I'll make plenty of mistakes while I am at it.

A brief digression: One explanation for the longevity of the human race at the beginning of time according to the Torah (if we take it literally) is that the first humans had to learn everything from scratch. They had to work out what the limits of the human body are, when to eat, sleep, how to hunt etc. It took them years till they worked it out. That could explain why they waited hundreds of years before having babies.

We now are lucky enough to have the ACCUMULATED KNOWLEDGE OF HUMAN HISTORY up till now. That's why learning and studying is so important. We can learn from our elders, from those with more experience, from people who faced the same challenges as us and made the same mistakes we are about to make. Too often we are not willing to listen to others and learn from them. But we should.

Back to my point - the institution of marriage and parenting seems to be failing on many fronts for a multitude of reasons. I don't have any magical solutions, but I think there are lessons to be learnt. As good a dad and hubby I think I will make (one day, when Rebbetsin RK gets round to making herself known to me) I am sure that there are things I can learn about communication, parenting, education etc. There are probably millions out there who will make worse parents and spouses than me, who could definitely do with some lessons.

I'm not sure where to run with this idea - parenting lessons in high schools? Give high school students a younger kid to look after? It may be better to include communication lessons and parenting lessons in the run-up to marriage amongst the general populace - mandatory parenting lessons? Can that work? Will it have an effect? At least in the Jewish world the Rabbis should include it in the pre-wedding requirements for a chatan and kallah. It can't hurt can it? We can't screw things up more than are doing now.



Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Just say no to cute frum stories about small miracles and G-d's providence

You know the ones I mean - where the guy stopped to daven Minchah, missed the plane and the plane crashed, or where the Rabbetzin gives up her money for Shabbat meals and finds a diamond on the fish, or whatever it was. I CAN'T STAND THEM. I'll tell you why - two simple words that say it all - THE HOLOCAUST. I am 100% sure that there were tens of thousands of people who did an amazing amount of chessed, kept taryag mitsvot properly, and what was their reward? What did Hashem do to them? He sent them to Auschwitz. Zu Torah Vezu Secharah? Moshe Rabbenu, I'm with you on this one.

Don't feed me any of the miraculous tales about people escaping the Nazis. I know they happened. I know there were those who were very lucky to escape, and who have incredible tales. But what about the rest that didn't make it? That Hashem didn't send a last minute reprieve to? Do you have any cute miracle stories about them? Did their bodies miraculously reform out of the ash spewed into the Polish air?

I'm aware that there were terrible massacres and tragedies previously in Jewish History. I also have to come to terms with how I interpret the second paragraph of the Shema. It seems that the Torah wanted us to believe that events on earth were affected by our spiritual level, but that this stopped a long time ago. Not that there isn't divine providence, but we have no way of knowing what the providence is related to.

So please don't feed me stories about how keeping mitsvot will guarantee me a good life. I'll keep them because G-d commanded me to, and I'll let Him decide whether or not I get a good life.


Jewish mythology

Yes, there is such a thing. Take the Tenach and look at it from a mythological point of view. There is a myriad of similarities with other mythologies. For example a wrathful, vengeful jealous and zealous god, heroes, lovers, sibling rivalry, mysticism, sacrificies, supernatural death, wars, intrigue.

Does it differ in any way? I believe it does. Most of the elements of the Torah are consistent with the overall message of ethical monotheism. We don't find Hashem chasing after women (Zeus you old skirt-chaser) or getting into trouble with his wife (horrible Hera). The only human sacrifice Hashem demands is the Akedah, which is a whole issue in itself. Other than that, human sacrifice is abhorred and obliterated. To my mind, there is a constant thread running through the Tenach relating to the perfection of man and his purpose on Earth. That is how it differs.


Institutionalized racism in the religious Jewish world

It exists. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Firstly, the idea of the "chosen people". In my eyes it means we have more responsibility - 613 commandments instead of 7. Yes, i know it's not really 613 and it's not really 7. Choseness implies superiority and is interpreted that way by many religious Jews. I don't believe it has to be though.

You can also find many racist statements in Jewish literature and tradition. You can pretty much find statements about anything you want, if you look hard enough. Maybe they were a product of their time. Who knows? But the statements exist.

There was also a certain degree of ethnic cleansing going on when Joshua entered the land. The 7 nations that lived there were to be destroyed. Under Jewish belief it was the Promised Land granted to us by G-d and the Jews were waging a battle for the future of humanity; would it be a pagan society that idolizes child-sacrifice or an ethically monotheistic society?

In the religious world many children are educated negatively towards the non-Jews and minorities as well. I've heard of one fellow Rabbi's Kid who married an Ethiopian girl in Israel. When he brought her back to his father's community, there was all sorts of whisperings and mutterings. I gather this is not a unique phenomenon.

People, this has got to stop. I may well be preaching to the converted here and I haven't provided any reasons why this racism is wrong - I hold it to be self-evident, but am happy to elaborate for any bigots out there.

It's prima facie wrong, and it's specifically wrong for Jews. We've been subjected to every sort of prejudice, racism, intolerance and bigotry in our history, let's stamp it out right now.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Where were you during the Sudan atrocities?

I sometimes wonder what it must've been like living through World War 2. Especially if you were somewhere on the other side of the world where there was no fighting going on (those few and far between locations). It seems that there are major massacres going on right now in Darfur. I've never heard of Darfur. I'd never heard of Rwanda. Bosnia was pretty unknown to me.

So what is it like living comfortably when there is genocide going on the other side of the world? I can come up with a few possible responses:

1) Couldn't care less. It doesn't affect me. I've never lived in Sudan, don't know any Darfurians, so why should I care?
2) Let them destroy each other. There's too much overcrowding in that part of the world, it'll be some sort of Darwinian process to ensure only the best survive.
3) It rarely bothers me, only in an intellectual "it sounds bad and I wish it would stop" sense.
4) I'm deeply disturbed, am going to devote my time and efforts to pressuring my government and the international community to step in and stop the massacres.

To be honest, I'm on 3, as I imagine most people are. Why am I not a 4? Laziness, partial indifference, there are enough worthy causes on the planet, I've got enough on my plate, etc etc. Ultimately though, as members of our country and the world community, we are in an indirect sense responsible for the indifference and procrastination of the international community.

In a sense, I am also guilty.


I'm open for criticism

I hereby declare myself, TRK, to be open, ready, willing and able to hear contructive helpful advice, criticism and thoughts, from friends, family, countrymen and bloggers.

The truth hurts like hell. For a while. But then after the initial pain, often I find ways of dealing with what's been said, internalizing it, adapting to it, altering myself. It may take a lifetime of effort. I really believe I'm better off in the long run with people telling me the truth rather than them hiding it from me to protect me. My friends, if I have chocolate on my face, annoy the hell out of you because I sing along with songs in the car, am arrogant or insensitive, please tell me. My family, if I don't show you enough love or caring, it isn't because there's a lack of love, but please tell me. My future wife, wherever she may be, I'm not perfect, far from it, I will strive to improve myself, but you are the person that I have chosen to intertwine my life with and you will be the one to tell me, to advise me, to rebuke, chastise or upbraid me. I trust you with my life and I trust you to hold a harsh mirror up to me when I need it. I will be better off that way.


Teaching Jewish history - have we failed?

I used to have a little pastime. Go up to your nearest Yeshiva boy and ask him a really simple question:

"Which came first in history, Chanukah or Purim, and how do you know?"

Not only was it surprising how long it took some of them to answer, but also how many of them GOT IT WRONG! I myself suffered at the hand of a badly-run, backwards, hypocritical Jewish education system. My rabbis were throughly unqualified to teach, being in Yeshiva for 10 years does NOT make you a good teacher, and being the son of the Rosh Yeshiva definitely helped you get the job, but didn't make you any good at it. The secular teachers all had teaching qualifications and by and large were fairly good.

I could draw up a long list of the problems of Jewish education, in my view, but I'm here to focus on Jewish history. The basic stuff. Some perspective. Getting a feel for the Jewish time line. Knowing what happened when. Maybe also bring in a bit of the outside world as well and how it impacted the Jewish world. What was going on at the time? Nebuchadnezzar, the Seleucids, Rome, Zoroastrianism, the Crusades, the Renaissance, Emancipation, etc.

Try out the question. Let me know how long it takes, how many of them can tell you why, and what percentage get it hopelessly wrong. Disgraceful.


Monday, April 11, 2005

FOS part 2 - incitement to violence

I don't have a working definition of what constitutes incitement to violence. Telling someone to go and kill or maim someone else obviously is. Saying that all gays are going to hell probably isn't. Calling for the destruction of the State of Israel possibly is. Spreading leaflets about the Ku Kux Kan possibly isn't. I do believe that when in doubt we should come down on the side of FOS.

An important caveat I must add is to say that if someone uses their right to freedom of speech and that highly influences another person to go off and perform violence, then we should reserve the right to go back and carefully re-examine the words spoken and see whether they had a direct connection with the act done. That will act as some sort of restraint from people overly abusing their right.


Freedom of Speech

I am a huge fan of FOS. Huge. I am very-anti censorship. For all sorts of reasons, too many to list here. I want the sickest, nastiest, most extreme, bigoted and racist sectors of society to have the ability to say what they want. It means a lot to me. However much I hate what they7 have to say. They must be able to publish newspapers, write blogs, give lectures, draft books, make signs, stand on soap boxes and generally spout off on whatever subject they please. Insult me. Deny the Holocuast. Demand the immediate incarceration of blacks/Jews/Muslims/republicans/lesbians. Accuse the Jews of running Hollywood (don't we?).

Funnily enough, I don't get offended by talk. Any talk. Even the personal stuff. Sticks and stones and all that. I'm happy people have the right to try and offend me. I want them to have that right. They can say what they like, and I can say what I like in response to it. The marketplace of ideas. The crucible of modern minds. I may be too naive, and I know a charismatic evil manipulative genius in the Adolf Hitler/Gengis Kahn/Stalin mould can wreak havoc on society. I still believe in people's ability to distinguish wrong from right. Give them the full range of options. Incitement to violence is wrong however, and must be punishable by the criminal courts. Otherwise, let them speak, shout, scream, snarl, hurl abuse, invective, insults and bigotry. Bring it on I say.

As Voltaire is commonly believed to have said "I disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it."


Dating friends

What seems to be a big issue in some singles communities is the dating friends problem. People hang out, meet people of the opposite gender and become friends. Nothing too wrong with that. Then somone asks you if you would like to be set up with her. "No thanks, we are already friends". I've used that line often enough.

But so what? I know a number of couples who were friendly for years before they got together. I can't explain it. Maybe the physical attraction grew, maybe they got desperate and settled, maybe they had misjudged the person originally and then got to know them. Who knows?

What am I supposed to conclude from this? I think I do have one or two friends that I would consider dating.

Maybe the problem is of Marxian proportions - Groucho, not Karl:

"I wouldn't consider marrying anyone who would want me as a husband"


Desecration is a Violation of the Nation

I recently prayed in a shul which has a mixed charedi and modern constituency. One of the siddurim had been defaced - the prayer for the State of Israel and the prayer for Israeli soldiers had been scribbled out. I understand people have issues with the "reishit tsemichat geulatenu" formula (the start of the sprouting of the redemption) - modern Anglo-Jewry doesn't use it for example. Fine. No one is forcing you to say it. But to come along and actively scribble something out in a prayer book? I've also seen in the library of a world-reknowned charedi yeshiva that someone took issue with the comments of Rav Zevin in the introduction to the Encyclopedia Talmudit where he writes that we have been meritous to see "atchalta degeula" (the beginning of redemption). They had crossed these words out.

If I could believe that these were the actions of young impressionable kids who merely misunderstood the pronouncements of their leaders, I would put it down to over-zealous youth. But I fear that this is not the case. Many people are inundated with constant diatribes against Zionists, modern society, university, and whoever else is lucky enough to be viewed as the embodiment of Satan on earth. I can't really blame them for thinking that a prayer to Hashem for the safety of the Israeli soldiers is a desecration. G-d forbid we should ask Hashem to protect us. Surely the devoted learning of countless Kollels is sufficient?

I could go on, but I'd rather keep my anger to myself.


Sunday, April 10, 2005

Pesach time - take another mortgage

It's not enough that people (mainly women) up and down the land have to scrub and clean floors, surfaces, behind fridges, in ovens, under beds, in nooks and crannies to find crumbs that are not fit to be peed on by a dog, never mind eaten by one. Every year we find more items to be machmir about, forcing families to spend more. We also demand that families go out and spend extortionate amounts on kosher lepesach materials that we never knew we had to buy. I'd like to see a study on how much extra kosher lepesach food is compared to the equivalent rest of the year prices. I accept that more supervision has to go into it, but the excessive prices are not justified.

What ever happened to "chasa rachmana al mamonam shel yisrael"? G-d has pity on our expenditure. Do we not have Rabbis of great enough stature to alleviate the quantity of house-cleaning that people feel they have to undertake? Why don't we enact takkanot regulating how much extra a firm can charge for kosher lepesach items? Not every family can afford it. Let's start a name and shame system on the web where we expose those firms taking advantage of the chag to unreasonably raise their prices. A concerted effort by our community will make a difference.

The battle starts here.


Friday, April 08, 2005

the double life of a secret blogger

I walk down the street nowadays and I think to myself - does that guy know who I really am? What if the lady at the store knew I was the Rabbi's Kid? Maybe she has her own blog "confessions of a checkout woman", telling lurid stories about storage room shenanigans.

It's strangely exciting leading a double life. Not as exciting as 007. In fact, nothing close. But it got me thinking, maybe the guy next to me has a deep dark secret and he has to carry that around with him the whole time. How tough would that be. Living a lie. Pretending to be something you are not. I couldn't countenance doing that (even trying to live the life of someone who is not a Rabbi's Kid was tough enough for me).

What about those people who have an amazing story, or are simply heroes of our time. The old lady taking her time, getting me frustrated. Maybe she's got some numbers tattooed on her arm. Maybe the punk over there volunteers with kids in risk. Maybe the smelly hobo in the gutter gave too much money to others, and didn't take care of himself.

I guess I'll have to learn to respect everyone, whoever they are. Food for thought.


in a similar vein

Why do people spend their whole lives in a job they don't like, working for a boss they can't stand, not making the slightest bit of difference to people around them? Job satisfaction? Minimal. For the money? Probably, but is it worth it? When do they get a chance to spend it? Two weeks a year on holiday somewhere fancy? The daily commute in the big flash car? The large soulless house that they spend so little time in? So their kids can have the best education, yet they don't see their kids growing up, don't show them sufficient love, and half the time the kids turn out spoilt and messed up.

I think society has messed itself up in such a big way. The materialistic rat race has sucked us in like a sultry harlot, promising us false futures, only for us to reach retirement age and ask "what did I acheive?".

I can keep ranting and raving about this all day, but I will leave it to one of the finest actors of our generation (extra brownie points if you guess the actor and film):
"What if I told you insane was working fifty hours a week in some office for fifty years at the end of which they tell you to piss off; ending up in some retirement village hoping to die before suffering the indignity of trying to make it to the toilet on time? Wouldn't you consider that to be insane?"


please don't take my sunshine away

I believe that there's evidence showing that the Scandinavian countries have the highest suicide rates in the world during the winter months, when it hardly ever gets light.

Speaking from experience, I know how much a sunny day causes a sunny disposition, and downtrodden overcast grey skies will often dampen my mood.

What's even worse is being stuck in a bland grey office environment on a sunny day. As spring approaches, I send out a clarion call across the lands, through offices and workplaces, into cubicles and cubbyholes, take advantage of the sun that G-d provides us, and go get yourself a sunny smile and a shining punim. Call in sick, bunk off work, skip a class, go to the beach, the park, the lake, the mountains, have a picnic, make love and most of all ENJOY LIFE.


Thursday, April 07, 2005

Frum and Gay - not a confession, more important than that

Orthodox gays. I used to think "screw the lot of them", well, you know what I mean. Tough luck mister. The Torah says don't do it, so don't do it. Deal with it. Go to therapy. Overcome your yetser.

Since then I've grown up slightly. I now realize that many of us struggle with our urges and desires, and we don't always conform with Halachah. That doesn't make it right. Let me clarify, I'm talking about males (females are a slightly different issue) who believe in Torah MiSinai and want to keep Taryag mitsvot. This is targeted at them, so please lay off me if you wish to attack me for being homophobic. I'm not, I love the Simpsons/the Iliad (delete according to your level of sophistication). I'm also not discussing the impending gay pride parade in Jerusalem. A different matter entirely.

Let's postulate that I am a mamzer (btw, I'm still known to some people in the Rabbi's community as "the little mamzer"!). For those who don't know, a mamzer is someone born of specific illegitimate unions (I won't define them here), and they cannot marry a Jewish person. (For the record, am not calling gays mamzers or anything of the sort. Just a hypothetical. Relax that throbbing vein in your forehead, take some prozac and C H I L L). If I knew that I would never be able to marry nor have relations acceptable to Halachah, would I remain faithful? Never stray? Would you? I could understand it if someone like that strayed from acceptable Halachic sexual conduct (ie none!) or got married in an Halachically unacceptable marriage. I couldn't condone or accept it, I would prefer it didn't happen, but I can understand it as part of the human condition and a result of the powerful libido we have.

Another hypothetical. For whatever reason, I have a predilection for molesting young boys (G-d forbid) or having intercourse with animals. I may have been molested, beaten, horribly raped, not hugged enough, or worked on a farm as a child, which could rationalize and explain these tendencies of mine and may even come close to justifying them in some way. As society, we can say "we understand and appreciate that you have these urges , however they are wrong. You may be blameworthy as an individual, forces beyond your control seem to have pushed you to do this, but we still hold this to be wrong".

Now take our religious homosexual. Yes take him - for dinner, a movie, who knows what might happen? Let's be straight (no pun intended). Gay sex is wrong. For those of you that don't believe that, this post is not for you. No amount of re-interpretation, textual criticism, or Deriddic deconstructionism (great alliteration, NO IDEA what it means though!) can get around that fact. It's as wrong as me telling loshon horah (slander), eating a bug, or not benching after a satisfying meal.

I'm not going to get into the nature/nurture issue here. My gay friend, I recommend you try therapy, if you believe Hashem tests us and gives us urges, then maybe it will help. Learn constructive Torah, try and overcome your yetser. We all have to to that when faced with our urges. Remember though, if you fail, it is an averah. We all do them - I'm probably doing seventeen of them right now (especially if you hold by the Slifkin-banners). Don't "come out" with it. Don't publicize it. Is it appropriate for me to tell you how many berachot I forgot to say yesterday? Should we have a float at the Israel Parade of "Jewish pig-eaters"? So why "Orthodox Homos"? Keep it in the bedroom, that's where I do some of my best work. I'm not judging you personally, I'm not blaming you, not having ever been in your shoes (two sizes too small for me), but I am asking you to keep it between you, G-d, and anyone you need to talk to or get advice from. Will people talk? Let them talk. Will people try and set you up? Let them try and set you up. Make up a polite excuse. It won't kill you.

Am I asking you to effectively lead a double life? Maybe. But many of us do. You have religious fornicators, porn-addicts, even blog writers who lead two different lives and are scared of getting caught (I'll post on this another time). Should you get married? I honestly don't know the answer to that one. There are so many factors on both sides, I don't know what to say. You would need to consult with someone knowledgeable and trustworthy about that.

So my gay frum friend, I have compassion for you. I think I have an inkling of what you are going through. You might only find the answer you are looking for at 120 when the Ribbono Shel Olam enlightens us, but until then: Be strong. And stay cool. And can you help me out with my wardrobe, because apparently you guys really know how to dress!


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

COARS Part 2 - what happened to the girl (and her mind)

I think I've kept you in suspense for long enough (thanks kish).

I contacted her, and asked her if she wanted to go to a Yom Hazikaron do (romantic, aren't I?). She contacted our mutual friend (MF) who was gonna come with, but after some discussion between J. and MF they claimed they were not in the mood (lame girl excuse - when is one ever "in the mood" for a Yom Hazikaron event).

The next night, at a Yom Ha'atzmaut celebration, I get asked whether I'd heard the news? What news? J and her boyfriend just got engaged! Holy crap, I thought, thank G. I hadn't told her last night that I was falling in love with her mind. I vaguely remember getting one of those "I don't think it is a good idea for us to be friends anymore" emails, though I have had quite a few from various females (surprised? me too!) so I don't remember whether she also sent me one.

Irrelevant of such, I am no longer friends with her, her hubby, or her small baby. I did walk past the happy couple one friday night on the street and wished them a Shabbat Shalom, to no avail. I think I subconsciously said it sotto voce so that I could rationalize to myself their lack of response. Clever of me huh?

I hope you enjoyed part one of the confessions. I'm happy to continue, trust me, there is plenty more, but I need you guys to comment and tell me how wonderful/idiotic/handsome/moronic (delete as applicable) I am. Furthermore, there is a chance I may be outed soon by people I know, and if that happens I may need to reconsider the whole confessions series, so I suggest you persuade me to reveal everything now.


Confessions of a Rabbi's Son - I once fell in love with a girl's mind

On the Nice Jewish Girl thread cloojew makes a comment about me being attracted to NJG based on her inner beauty.

Reminds me of a saga a while back. J (initials have been changed to protect privacy) was a girl I had grown up with, though we were not particularly friendly growing up. A few years back we became properly friendly through some mutual friends, and starting having an online "relationship". She really got my humor, was witty, sharp, educated and we could chat for hours, about anything. To be honest, I wasn't so attracted to her physically, but I would get that excited feeling (nothing dirty boys, calm down) whenever she was online, or whenever we chatted on the phone. You know, that gnawing minor pain in your abdomen that is a cross between nerves and excitement.

Sounds great, I hear you say? J. was also unfortunately dating a friend of mine at the time. Oh, you adulterer, how could u do that to him? you ask. Well, I was under the impression I was doing nothing wrong. We would sometimes even discuss their relationship (I can't remember if I played the good-old "I am just a friend who cares who is telling you that maybe he is bad for you when really I am thoroughly jealous and want to persuade you subliminally to dump him so I can have you" role). This went on for some time, even when we were in different countries.

It reached the stage when I realised I had fallen in love with her mind (is that possible, still don't know?), and had decided to tell her, get it out in the open, and see what we could do about it (stupid me).

You know what, I'll keep u in suspense for the conclusion (I just need my ego stroked by seeing the hit counter rise meteorically).

To be continued ....


Weddings - yuk!

Why have they become so formulaic? The same music, the same format, the same structure, the same location, the same shtick? Yeah, it's fun when it's people you care about, I do always enjoy myself (the plentiful alcohol and meat tends to help) and I love dancing, but weddings just don't do anything for me really. Of course I make the effort to be mesameach chatan vekallah, but afterwards they all tend to roll into one in my memory banks.

What really gets me going is the whole present issue. Why should I feel obligated to give a present of a certain amount when I am being invited to a Simcha? When I invite people to something (a meal, a party etc) I do not expect them to bring something, and I do not take umbrage if they don't. I'm inviting them! I want them to bring themselves. (Don't worry, I always give wedding presents - when I remember - and I always offer to bring something to meals and stuff).

I appreciate that the money and gifts greatly assist the newly weds tenative first steps in an impercunious life, but keep in mind the parents have just blown a small fortune on the wedding. Why not reduce the amount you spend on the wedding instead (who cares what the Jones will think?) and use that money for the newly weds?

When my time comes (presuming Bill Gates hasn't invented automatic wedding gift machines by then - though at this rate the wedding could take place on saturn!) I will propose (spouse willing) that we make it clear we do not expect presents, and we will be more than happy for people to donate to a charity of our choice. I will also emphatically tell my parents and in-laws that as far as I am concerned, as long as the kallah is there, a ring, some half-decent music, a bit of hot food, bucketloads of intoxicating beverages and lots and lots of our friends and family, then I couldn't care less what kind of flower arrangement we have or whether it is in a fancy wedding hall or not or who the band is.


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The limits of democracy as a Moshol for the religious world

I believe in democracy. It's the best out of a bad bunch of systems for running countries. However, democracy cannot allow itself to be undercut from within. I.e., we cannot allow a party that would actively remove democracy from the political process. Philosophically there can be no room for a Nazi party to rise to power and take over.

Although I can accept my opponents right to express his views, form a party based on them, and run for election, if within his views there are elements which would negate my right to express my view, then that element is unacceptable and cannot be allowed.

I'm not referring to any current political issue, rather how I view the Jewish religious world. I can accept religious alternatives that conform to my basic standard, though the elements within them that downplay my legitimacy or deny my view point as being Torah-true, I cannot accept.

I hope there's someone out there that chaps what I am trying to get at.


Jewish mothers of the world - a request

Dear mothers,

Your lovely Michael/Rachel/Daniel is a self-sufficient adult, capable of making life choices for himself. He doesn't need to be told that "he is nothing until he is married", "I know this lovely girl, she's half your age, twice your height, looks like Saddam Hussein and smells like old socks, but you never know". Please! Parents. Singles have enough on their plate. Just give quiet and gentle encouragement and stay in the background. And if we choose not to date for the time being, respect our choice. If we want your help/advice, we will ask for it.

For the record, my mother has never once put pressure on me (other than wanting grandkids) and doesn't raise the topic unless it's in jest. I know every joke has some truth, but I merely respond in jest, thereby deflating any hopes she may have for me.


Addicted to blogs

Well, I think I can officially announce it. I am now addicted to blog. Call me voyeur, call me mr. vain, I know what I want and I want it now. What confounds matters is that blogger is playing up. Come on blogmeister, don't u realize some of us are putting our lives on hold so we can peer into other people's minds?

I hope I can wean myself off this addiction - I have enough vices in my life, though this one seems far worse than gambling, hard drugs and granny porn.


Not political, honest

Just been reading Dershowitz's "Why Terrorism Works" as well as an online article by Norman Podhoretz, and I am constantly amazed by the obtuseness and stupidity of most of the international community, especially in dealing with terrorism. AD's description of the response to (mainly) Arab terrorism beginning in the late 60's is astounding.

Don't want to get bogged (blogged?) down in a political debate, so I will pose a theological question. Is G-d laughing at us? Placing Israel in the Middle East, giving the Arabs the oil reserves, providing a Europe thriving off entrenched anti-semitism? Boy, He really has it in for us!

I guess challenge brings the best out of people, and G-d's gift of blood libels, the Crusades, the Inquisition, Cossacks, the Nazis and Arab terrorism and warmongering is a way of keeping us in check and ensuring we stay on our toes. Will it ever end?

A frustrated and concerned TRK

Monday, April 04, 2005

Comments people, comments

I am a firm believer in the marketplace of ideas. I love the cut and thrust of constructive intellectual debate. So please, if u read this blog and have something to say, spit it out. The only way I'll know if what I say makes any sense is if you guys tell me.

more on sex and religion

I don't want to become a one-topic blog, but there's so much more to be said. It's often said that males have a much stronger sex-drive than females. It also seems that more and more females in the religious world are waking up to their sexuality. How do we deal with this. Yes, marraige is an ideal, something we should be aiming for, at the right time with the right person, and not before. But until then .....

Most of the halachot are pretty straightforward. You can't do it. Whatever it is you are asking about. So how do we deal with it? Firstly, if using a vibrator is acceptable in Halachah (anyone got sources?) then it should be encouraged. I don't believe it will discourage women from getting married (if they are getting married just to relieve their sexual tension then we are in trouble anyway). It will (or should do) relax their tension, and help them deal with their urges to a degree. As for guys, well, we just gotta be strong I guess.

Furthermore, we need to open up channels and be encouraged to talk about it. If everything is to be viewed as taboo, then the religious world is abdicating responsibility for the masturbation, pre-marital sex, abortions, and those that drift away from tradition because their libido is too strong. Those of us that face these issues, and care about them, know that having someone to "confess" to can really help. I'm not asking for the Rabbinic world to hand out Heterim left right and center (though I might deal with that in a later post). But it is time we started dealing with it.

To be continued

morality and economics

I'm having great difficulty with the congruence of religion and economics. I can believe in the words of the Neviim that we as society must support the impoverished, the widow and the orphan, yet why must it be the goverment that enforces this through taxation? Can't I also believe in Small Government allowing society itself to fund the charities, NPOs and Gemachs? The problem is exacerbated in Israel. Yes, I believe in supporting Torah study, but why should the taxpayer bear such a cumbersome burden? Torah study can and should be subsidized, but the taxpayer should also be given the choice to donate and support the institutions he chooses to.

Can anyone help me?


Sunday, April 03, 2005

Pope JP2 RIP

I'm unsure how to deal with the news that the Pope passed away. From what I've read, he seemed to be as pro-Israel and as positive towards Judaism as we could've hoped for (especially considering some of his predecessors). On a more broader perspective, he was a man of G-d who was revered and respected by millions and millions of believers worldwide, who are now in mourning. On reading the obituaries, he seems to have been a great man, sometimes showing leadership qualities that are lacking in the Jewish world.

If we take the Rambam's attitude at the end of Hilchot Melachim (uncensored), Christianity and Islam have a very important role to play on earth, spreading the idea of Torah (even as an "Older" version), G-d and the Moshiach. To me this means that Christian missionizing in places like Africa, Eastern Europe etc is a positive step, as long as as they are not indoctrinating anyone to go on a rampage to Jerusalem, killing every heretic and infidel on the way. The same can be said for Islam. Thank you JP2 for who you were, and Rest In Peace

A few brief words on the Slifkin ban

I know many keyboards have been bashed in agony over this story. Just wanted to add some thoughts from a different angle. The promulgation of the ban has led to the lampooning and ridicule of the rabbis who signed the ban in some quarters, especially in the blogosphere. I don't think it is appropriate to treat them in that manner (however tragically hilarious it sometimes gets) but we do need to find a way to respond. Though I have lost respect for these rabbis, I can still accept as part of Torah Judaism their straightforward Halachic decisions, but I must reject their Hashkafic/Aggadic/Meta-Halachic positions, and I call on those rabbis who agree with me to speak out. Let the voice of moderation ring forth, we are fighting for the future of Torah Judaism here.



Friday, April 01, 2005

Mission Statement

1) We believe that the sexual impulse is one given to us by G-d, to be utilized in the most holy manner possible, by imitating G-d and creating new life in a loving caring marriage environment.

2) We are aware that sexual imagery surrounds us, assaulting us daily with stimulants in many walks of life, and although shielding our eyes, locking ourselves away or hiding may reduce these stimuli, this is often not a satisfactory or realistic solution.

3) We believe that marriage goes some way to resolving the problem, though this is not a reason or justification for jumping into marriage too soon, and many married people are still faced with similar issues.

4) We accept that praying to Hashem for help is a necessary and oft-neglected weapon in our struggle, and we will continue to ask for help even if we don’t seem to be succeeding.

5) We promise to pick ourselves off the floor every time we fail in this struggle, however long it takes, because we have faith that this is what Hashem requires of us, and Lefum Tsaarah Agra.

6) We appreciate that the Halachah forbids the temptations we struggle with and demands us to try and overcome our Yetser, and will be careful not to rationalize our deeds or our thoughts.

7) We will NEVER judge other people who may or may not be succeeding in their struggles, and we will ALWAYS look for ways grant people the benefit of the doubt. We will strive for a reduction in the public debate as to whether specific people are shomer negiah and we hope that society will recognize that this is a difficult and internal struggle for many religious people and not gossip or judge them for this.

8) We recognize that religious singles will come under increasing pressure in this field, especially in light of their growing numbers and propensity to get married later on in life, and we will support them in their quest to be Yerey Hashem and to find a worthy life partner.

9) We confess that often boredom or low self-esteem can be the triggers to lead us to temporarily fail in our struggles, and we will make an effort to reduce these factors as much as possible.

10) We demand the Jewish education system deals with sexuality from a positive religious perspective, rather than sweeping the issue under the carpet. Supportive, constructive perspectives to be found in the works of Rabbi Nachman and Rav Twersky, amongst others, should be brought in at the earliest stages of adolescent education. Guilt after succumbing to temptation can sometimes cause more damage than the averah itself.

11) We will set up support networks for religious people who find themselves faced with these temptations, and create a forum for people to express their views or advice.

12) We realize that there are Taryag Mitsvot, and each and every one of us is special, unique, and has our own struggles to face. We cannot know the outcome of our battles, other than this is where Hashem has placed us and this is what we must do. Finally, we will NEVER give up hope.