24 January 2012

QR Codes Flower in Israel

Last January on our trip to Israel, I made a note to myself that quick response codes (QR codes in short) were nowhere to be found. Well, maybe I saw a couple of them, but it surprised me that, in a country where technology was, by and large embraced, QR codes were strangely absent. However, on our current Israel trip, I have been noticing them to a much greater degree, in many different places, whether in advertisements, stickers, or elsewhere. It seems that 2011 was a year of great growth for the blossoming of QR codes in Israel!

15 January 2012

In Appreciation of "Epic Meal Time"

Adding massive amounts of ground beef soil to a "Meat Garden"
Last month while speaking with students, a couple of them mentioned something called "Epic Meal Time".  I saw a couple of their videos, found it interesting, but didn't continue watching them.  That is, until this past week.  I continued watching them and am making my way through them and love them.
     What Epic Meal Time essentially is several twenty-something Montreal natives get together and concoct some massive meal.  Now, it takes meals to the next level, usually involving meat and almost always involving bacon.  This isn't a regular dish that they are preparing on the Food Network - no, they are preparing a feast with tens of thousands - if not hundreds of thousands - of calories.  It is something that is totally within anybody's grasp to do and is essentially quite simple, yet, there is a simple brilliance to preparing gigantic amounts of caloric concoctions. 
On occasion, they do desserts, too
       Stylistically, it is well-done: not only is the quality of the footage excellent (they've got a good camera) and the editing also great, but the music is what really catches the viewer.  In keeping with the name of the project, the music accompanying the footage reminds the viewer of music often heard during epic battles in movies and makes it seem as if there is, indeed, a massively epic culinary experience.
        Also, while the preparation of the food is interesting, there are several further fascinating elements to what they do (in addition to the epic music): 1) They include a caloric counter and fat counter to show the viewer just how any calories are going into their meal; 2) They drink lots of alcohol (primarily Jack Daniel's Whiskey, but also beer and Patron), which makes it seem totally unpretentious; and 3) The tongue-in-cheek usage of Hip-Hop language (such as "haters", saying things are "stupid", and taking cooking to "the next level".
They make a lot of different elements, but eat it all
        However, what is perhaps the best piece of what Epic Meal Time is the way in which their story comes together.  Preparing a meal is basically taking different ingredients, cooking them together, and you have your dish.  While that may sound simple enough, the Epic Meal Time folks seem to focus so closely on individual aspects of making the food, that the viewer has a growing sense that what is being prepared is a lot to eat, but only in a piecemeal fashion.  However, as any individual episode continues, the viewer starts to see the food pile up and, similar to a good detective story, you don't get the full picture of what's going on until the climax and when they bring the disparate culinary concoctions together, it makes for an intense realization of what they are constructing is actually exponentially more massive than any of the individual elements combined were.
       Thus far, I've seen a small fraction of the episodes, but the ones I have seen make me hungrier for more.

11 January 2012

Purim Drinking II: Which Beverage(s) to Drink?

Wine is mentioned several times in the book of Esther
Having begun a discussion of drinking on Purim, (and what got me re-interested in this topic), I wanted to do an initial post on which beverage one should drink in order to intoxicate oneself on Purim.
     Curiously, in neither Rabbi Jacob, son of Asher's Four Divisions1 nor in Rabbi Joseph Karo's Set Table2 is any specific beverage mentioned in order to intoxicate, whether wine or not wine.
     Maimonides, however, does specify that one gets drunk through drinking wine.3  I wonder why neither Rabbi Jacob, son of Asher, nor Rabbi Karo specified wine as Maimonides did, although I certainly don't know.  
     One reason mentioned why wine is the means to get drunk on Purim is articulated by Rabbi Abraham Danzig in his Person's Life that since the miraculous occurrences happened through wine (the party at the outset, as well as the small drinking parties that Esther arranged towards the end of the book), therefore, we were obligated to get drunk on wine.4
     While I have certainly come nowhere near exhausting this topic, I did want to - for the time being - share a paragraph devoted to this topic:
Contrary to popular conception, the mitzva of drinking on Purim is intended to be performed exclusively with wine, to the exclusion of all other alcoholic beverages.  It is also noted that drinking wine on Purim is meant to be reminiscent of the verse "wine gladdens the heart of man."  Some authorities suggest that because wine was a much stronger drink in Talmudic times than it is today, it is permissible to drink whiskey and other alcoholic beverages in fulfillment of this mitzva as well.5
      I hope to return to this topic....


1 - טור אורח חיים סימן תרצה
2 - שולחן ערוך אורח חיים סימן תרצה
3 - משנה תורה, הלכות מגילה ב:טו

4 - חיי אדם קנה:ל
5 - Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, Halacha Bilvad: Halachic Insights & Responsa (Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel: Dalet Amot Publishing, 2010), 52.

10 January 2012

Saying a Statement in the Name of the Person Who Said It 3: Let's Just Call a Rabbi a Rabbi

Books don't write themselves
I recently found the following that I had sent myself a couple of years ago and hadn't previously posted, but should be:
A previous entry of mine focused on the rabbinic notion of quoting the person who made a particular statement, which is important and I wanted to build upon it (for another similar entry, see here).
     When reading halakhic literature in Hebrew it can be a bit strange to see the title of a book referenced, rather than the author referenced (such as "and Book Such-and-Such wrote.."), but I've accepted it as an idiosyncratic characteristic of that genre of literature. However, what's annoying is when that is replicated in English.  My being disturbed is on account of a few reasons:
           1) The principle of repeating the author's name (akin to the aforementioned article)
           2) Saying a book wrote something is nonsense (imagine reading that "Romeo and Juliet" wrote such-and-such rather than Shakespeare having written it), at least in English.
           3) The consideration of the English-reading audience: oftentimes (although not always), the people who are reading it are not only unfamiliar with the idiosyncratic form of halakhic literature, but also don't know what the book in question is. Moreover, for those and many others, it generally serves to promote ignorance of who these great rabbis of our tradition were.
           4) Lastly, I don't think it is respectful to not give these great rabbis of our tradition the proper כבוד (honor) - instead, they are mostly ignored: we should have respect for the forebears of our tradition and their books - not their bound words, alone.
     Therefore, when I translate into English, I make sure I attribute the writings to those who wrote them and not simply the books' titles.

09 January 2012

Pre-Marital Sex as a Subcategory of Non-Marital Sex

Although there may be other posts like this one out on the Internet, I've been thinking about this topic for years and finally just wanted to post about it.  This post is about the semantics of the term "pre-marital sex" and differentiating it from other forms of non-marital sex.
       Basically, there are three different categories of sex when it comes to marriage: 1) Marital sex - that is, sex within a marriage; 2) Extra-Marital sex - that is, sex by one marital partner with someone outside of their marriage; and 3) Non-Marital sex - that is sex by someone who is not married.  While categories 1 and 2 need no further breaking down, category 3 has some breaking down to be done (it may be noted that extra-marital sex could be included within the non-marital sex category, I'm going to let it remain separate).
      Non-marital sex is simply sex by an unmarried person, whether they had formerly been married (you could call this post-marital sex (whether it's with their former spouse (in cases of divorce (as opposed to being widowed (and, no, I'm not touching necrophilia))) or with someone else)) or not otherwise married.  I hesitate to say not yet married because it presumes one will get married at some point.  This problem remains with the term "pre-marital" sex, unless, of course, one is engaged.  In such a case, one has a marriage on the horizon and knows they are to get married and has sex with their fiance.  This is the only time that the term Pre-Marital sex makes any sense - they are having sex before their marriage.  Otherwise, it is overly presumptuous that this person will marry.  Whether they will die before getting the chance to get married, they have no desire to get married, or simply are forever unmarried.  
      I don't know if these distinctions amongst non-marital sex sub-categorizations will ever catch on in a widespread sense, but I do hope people think more intelligently about using the term "pre-marital sex".

08 January 2012

Purim Drinking I: Prolegomenon

With Purim occurring two months from today, my mind turned over shabbat towards one of the most well-known aspects of the festival: drinking.  The amusing thing about drinking being a(n in)famous aspect of the holiday is that it was not initially a main part of the festival - it was not a Tannaitic element (the primary ones were reading the megillah, giving money to the poor, and sharing food with others), but rather an amoraic addition to our tradition (and the requirement to get drink might have even been later).  
      Furthermore, in regards to the locus classicus of the drinking requirement, I refer you to Rabbi Josh Yuter's now-classic post on drinking on Purim (to hear Rabbi Yuter speak on the topic, see here).  For me, one of the key points he makes is
I don't read the anecdote as a response to Rava, but rather as an explanation of Rava's statement. Textually, Rava's statement precedes the story of Rabbah and R. Zeira. Chronologically however, Rabbah and R. Zeira lived in the generation before Rava. Therefore, it is unlikely for Rabbah and R. Zeira to be reacting to Rava.
     Although I plan to return to the discussion of drinking and Purim in later posts, one of the thoughts that popped into my head yesterday was that I've always had wine to drink on Purim and remembered hearing/reading somewhere that one is to get drunk off of wine to the exclusion of other drinks.  I never took any issue with that idea since I've liked wine and started to want to try to appreciate it ever since I saw Sideways with my family.  However, with my recent interest over the past couple of months in mixing drinks, my thinking changed and wondered what in the tradition is there about wine-only?
      That's not the only question on my mind about drinking on Purim, but I hope to tackle that one and more in posts to come....

05 January 2012

Excited About Going to Tribefest 2012

Having returned yesterday from spending the previous day and a half in Las Vegas, I am looking forward to going to Tribefest this year (and, yes, I made sure I registered today).  I am not looking forward to it just because the weather should be great (of the four times I've been there it's either been winter or summer, whereas the weather should be excellent in March) and, plus, I'm not into gambling, card playing, etc., so that's also not why I'm excited for Vegas.
       So why am I excited?  The primary reason is the people. Jews [roughly] my age from all over the continent will be there, which will be great on its own and I love such gatherings (it's part of the reason I became a rabbi). First, it'll be great to reconnect with folks I haven't seen in a while; second, there should be new cool people to meet, which is super; third, professional networking; and fourth, making myself available as a rabbinic resource for young Jews all over and, of course, to young Jewish adults in Southern California.
Tribefest 2012 will be taking place at the Venetian
       Last year, I had wanted to attend, but, alas, our second daughter was about to be born.... So, this year, both my wife and I will both be able to attend :)
       Although I didn't hear such great things about last year's sessions at Tribefest, if there is anything decent, that'll be exceeding my expectations.  Plus, maybe since it was the first Tribefest, there may've been some patches that needed smoothing over.  Also, while the schedule was just released today, I also discovered there is a clergy track for sessions for rabbis and cantors, which should be awesome getting together with other young-ish rabbis!
       Lastly, though, it'll be awesome with all the alcohol that there is in Vegas, that'll be the icing on the cake to make it fantastic!

02 January 2012

Rabbinic Popularity in the Tosefta V: סדר קדשים

Continuing in my attempt to count up the most frequently mentioned sages in the Tosefta, I have now counted up the appearances in סדר קדשים (for previous posts in the Tosefta, see the following: סדר זרעים, סדר מועד, סדר נשים, and סדר נזיקין).
Unsurprisingly, Rabbi Yehudah once again is the most frequently mentioned sage in סדר קדשים, although surprisingly, Rabbi Shimon was close for the first time in appearances.  Also of note is that Rabbi Eleazar breaks into the top ten of a seder for the first time thus far in the Tosefta.
For a comparison for this same סדר in the משנה, see here.
Top ten most mentioned sages in סדר קדשים:
1 - רבי יהודה
2 - רבי שמעון
3 - חכמים
4 - רבי אליעזר
5 - רבי מאיר
6 - רבי יוסי
7 - רבי עקיבא
8 - רבי
9 - רבי יהושע
10 - רבי אלעזר
For the most mentioned in each tractate, here is the listing:
זבחים - רבי שמעון
שחיטת חולין - רבי יהודה
מנחות - רבי יהודה
בכורות - רבי עקיבא
ערכין - רבי יהודה
תמורה - רבי שמעון ורבי וחכמים
מעילה - רבי עקיבא
כריתות - רבי שמעון