Thursday, January 27, 2005


After an embarrassing incident involving underage drinking, the OU has issued a ban on kiddush clubs. Some people are happy about this, mainly, it seems, because they dislike the kiddush clubs at their local shuls. This is not entirely logical. You may have had a bad experience at summer camp, but that doesn't necessarily mean that camp is an evil institution and ought to be banned. I've visited the kiddush club at my parents' shul a number of times. It is not at all exclusive (heck, they let me in), and I have never seen anyone, let alone a child or teenager, get seriously drunk.

In any case, the incident that supposedly provoked the ban did not occur at a kiddush club. It occurred at an apparently unsupervised party hosted by an 18 year old. If those kids had been drinking single-malt scotch with adults in their community rather than cheap beer with their buddies from school, I doubt that anyone would have had to call the police.

American history has taught us that banning alcohol consumption does not prevent alcoholism. What it does prevent is responsible drinking. People are not normally inclined to behave responsibly when what they are doing is considered illicit either way. I don't know whether people are actually making kiddush in cloak rooms, but if they are, there is something very wrong with the atmosphere in our shuls, and it isn't the fault of those buying the liquor.

I think it's telling that this ban has been issued by an organization that responded to a sex abuse scandal by cracking down on mingling between boys and girls at youth group events. Do they really think that by turning any contact with the opposite sex into a crime, they are going to prevent sexual harassment? Or was sexual harassment not really the issue? Along the same lines, one can't help but wonder whether the "crackdown" on kiddush clubs is really a response to underage drinking. Especially when a rabbi argues that the problem begins "once people start bringing in cholent."

Election Day . . .Er, Week

The following is a non-partisan public service announcement.

For those who haven't heard, the polls are open at Israellycool. Take note: "You can vote only once in 24 hours." (Translation: You can vote every 24 hours.) Go support your favorite Jewish and Israeli blogs.

Sunday, January 23, 2005


I made these cookies in honor of Tu Bishvat. They are high in fiber and low in sugar and fat. The texture is somewhat unusual, but I enjoyed them very much.

Four-Fruit Trolls
(adapted from The All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett)
Yield: 35 cookies

2/3 cup golden raisins
2/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1 cup finely diced unpeeled Golden Delicious apple (about 1 medium)
2/3 cup chopped pitted dates
1 cup all-purpose white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar (the cookbook says light, I used dark)
1/4 cup corn oil or canola oil
3 tbs unsalted butter or stick margarine, slightly softened
2 large eggs
1/4 cup unsweetened apple butter, thinned with 1 tbs water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease several baking sheets or coat with nonstick spray.

In a medium bowl, cover the raisins and cranberries with hot water. Let soak for about 10 mins; drain well. Stir in the apple and the dates; set aside.

In a medium bowl, thoroughly stir together the white and whole wheat flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together the brown sugar, oil, and butter or margarine until very well blended. Add the eggs and apple butter and beat until fluffy and evenly incorporated. Reduce the speed to low, add one-third of the flour mixture, and beat until the dough stiffens. Stir in the remaining flour mixture until evenly incorporated.

Drop the dough onto the baking sheets in generous golf-ball sized mounds, spacing about 2 1/2 inches apart.

Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, in the middle of the oven for 9-12 mins, or until browned and barely firm when touched in the centers. Reverse the sheet from front to back halfway through baking to ensure even browning. Transfer the sheet to a wire rack and let stand until the cookies firm up, 1-2 mins. Using a spatula, transfer the cookies to wire racks. Let stand until completely cooled.

Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month.

* * *

I haven't yet tried the following recipe, but my mom thought it was good enough to send to all three of her daughters, so it must be pretty wonderful.

Lemon – Basil Chicken

3-pound broiler-fryer chicken
1 lemon
1 clove garlic thinly sliced
1/2 cup snipped fresh or 1 tablespoon dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
(soy sauce)

Heat oven to 375°. Remove excess fat from chicken; fasten neck skin of chicken to back with tooth pick. Fold wings across back with tips touching. Grate 2 teaspoons lemon peel; reserve. Cut lemon into halves; rub chicken with juice from 1 lemon half. Place garlic, 1 tablespoon of the fresh basil (1 teaspoon dried basil leaves) and both lemon halves in cavity. Rub chicken with reserved lemon peel; sprinkle garlic powder, remaining basil and soy sauce over chicken.

Place chicken, breast side up, on rack in shallow rectangular roasting pan. Cover and bake 1 hour. Uncover and bake until drumstick meat feels very soft when pressed between fingers, about 30 minutes.

4 servings

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Summers Controversy

As a friend pointed out this morning, it's all hearsay. There were no reporters at the conferences, and no tapes or transcripts of the speech have been made available to the public. I am trying not to jump to conclusions, but I must admit, I am very angry -- and not at Summers.

It is the height of hypocrisy when the very people who (justifiably) accused Bush of manipulating science for political purposes suggest that the relationship between biology and academic interests is not a legitimate subject for inquiry. It is a closed-minded, knee-jerk reaction to walk out of the room when you hear an economic theory that offends your sensibilities. And, in the end, the theory ought not be so offensive.

No one in academia would deny that women can be brilliant mathematicians, scientists, and engineers. It is patently obvious. The issue here is the proportion of women to men in the technical fields. Should Harvard do everything it can to ensure a one-to-one ratio of female to male scientists, even if the pool of talented female scientists is significantly smaller? Would that really be "equal opportunity employment"?

Call me a closet misogynist, but I think that men and women alike should be treated as individuals, not statistics. The notion that academic departments (the sciences, no less!) "need" more female professors is no more reasonable than the notion that every child "needs" a mother and a father. A mature individual can examine the broader picture without drawing conclusions about herself and her colleagues. It was reasonable for Summers to expect that level of maturity at an invitation-only conference at Harvard.

There is a vast middle ground between biological determinism and the idea that sex is a social construct. The more that we understand about the human mind and the human body, the more complex the nature/nurture problem seems to become. This subject should be studied honestly and openly, not in the service of some extremists' conception of gender. And those who discuss it honestly and openly should not have to apologize, especially at a so-called institution of higher learning.

UPDATE: Here is an interesting look at the "mommy factor," which Summers also mentioned.

Aish and the Book Ban

From an article in the Forward, by Steven I. Weiss (some background here):

Schroeder, who wrote the article being reviewed by Aish HaTorah, said he did not know that his writings were being used on the organization's Web site and that he was surprised they would have been removed.

"Just yesterday, I gave four hours of classes on the age of the universe, in Discovery," he said, referring to the organization's in-depth seminar program. Of the site's notice that the article was "under review, in consultation with today's leading Torah scholars," Schroeder asked, "Why would a Torah scholar know relativity, unless he's studied relativity?"

As DH put it, "now we know that Aish is just like every other Jewish organization." ("Organizaton"? What's that?)

Hat tip to Jewish Whistleblower.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

A "Family Matter" No Longer

Biblioblogdom is abuzz with discussions of a recent SBL resolution objecting to the invocation of the Bible in defense of conservative political views. Jim West would have preferred that this remain an "in-house" matter, but at this point, I don't see the harm in weighing in. It won't take much effort, since Jim Davila has articulated my views precisely. I won't even provide an excerpt of the post. Just read the whole thing.

Ed Cook says, "this survey is the most depressing thing I have read for many days, especially since at the present moment, over 70% of the members voted AGREE." I am also disappointed, but I submit that many of those academics might not have supported the resolution if they had thought it over a bit. Ph.D.'s aren't awarded for common sense. It is easy to see how someone who supported equal marriage rights, abortion rights, and stem-cell research might think that, in voting "DISAGREE," he or she would be tacitly supporting the opponents of those causes. More power to Jim Davila and his ilk, those liberal-leaning academics who are nonetheless willing to vociferously object to this abuse of an academic institution.

UPDATE: By the time I voted, the tally was under 60% in favor. Of course, we don't know how many voters were just "fucking around."
At PaleoJudaica, an alternate formualtion of the resolution by Maxine Grossman. Better (much better, actually), but I still don't think it's SBL's place to get involved in U.S. politics.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Speaking of Heretics. . .

I'd like to welcome Rabbi Nosson Slifkin to the club. (To think, until about an hour ago I considered him a fundamentalist.)

You can read all about R. Slifkin's heresy here,or you can go straight to this wonderful article, in Dei'ah veDibur. An excerpt:

Gedolei Yisroel [the greatest living rabbis]* have issued an open letter against books by Rabbi Nosson Slifkin (also known as "the Zoo Rabbi") such as The Science of Torah and Mysterious Creatures, which are filled with heretical ideas on the fundamentals of emunoh [faith] formed by the former yeshiva student himself.

When these books reached the hands of English-speaking talmidei chachomim [religious scholars] they were shocked and dismayed at the contents. Several months ago HaRav Yitzchok Sheiner, rosh yeshiva [headmaster] of Yeshivas Kamenitz and a member of Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, wrote a letter to gedolei hador [the greatest rabbis of the present generation] in which he said, "As one who knows the English language I hereby testify before you that a talmid chochom [scholar] concerned for the honor of Torah and emunoh came to me and showed me books written by an individual by the name of Nosson Slifkin, which are hair-raising to read. Perhaps I transgressed the obligation to tear kria ["tearing,"** a mourning ritual] when confronted with things that appear to be complete heresy, against all that is accepted and known according to our faith ever since the Torah was given on Mt. Sinai. He believes that the world is millions of years old—all nonsense!—and many other things that should not be heard and certainly not believed. In short these books cannot be brought into the home of one who believes in Hashem and His Torah."

To this letter HaRav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas South Fallsberg, adds, "And he also writes that Chazal Hakedoshim [the authors of the Talmud] can err chas vesholom [God forbid] in worldly matters chas vesholom and therefore [they can err]*** in halochoh [Jewish law] as well chas vesholom, as he wrongly proves from maseches Horayos [a tractate of the Talmud] —all nonsense! And the whole book is filled with similar instances of total heresy. And even regarding the parts that are not total heresy, he who reads them and accepts his writings will eventually become a total heretic. And furthermore, even what is not heretical is expressed in a way only a heretic would speak." [I think that means that R. Slifkin doesn't write in Yeshivish.****]

My favorite line:

Rabbonim [rabbis] who gave their haskomoh [endorsement] to the book retracted their approbation in a letter explaining that they relied primarily on the fact the author was the product of yeshivas.

Now we know how much those haskomos are worth (not that there were really any illusions).

*The bracketed additions are mine, with one exception.
**A typical Yeshivish redundancy.
***This is the exception.
****This, of course, is good news for anyone who needed the information contained in the brackets.

UPDATE: Gil Student has a wonderful post with some inside information. (The comments are also worth reading.) DovBear has posted an "action alert" calling for the defense of R. Slifkin. DH has a few words on a related matter.

UPDATE 2: Interesting sociological analysis by the Hedyot (reactions?) and a shpoof.
Cross-Currents' Yitzchok Alderstein comments, and Paul Shaviv responds.
Looks like this is it for Gerald Schroeder. Welcome to the club.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Jerusalem, Home of the Depraved

A bizarre mental syndrome that has seen scores of visitors to Jerusalem become convinced they are characters from the Bible is the subject of a new art exhibition, reports the Scotsman.

Read more. (Hat tip to Jim West)

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Correction in Catholic World News

This is old stuff, but it would be a shame if anyone who heard about the original error missed it. I have it tucked away in an update to an earlier post, which I realize is inadequate.

Vatican, Dec. 30, 2004 ( - The following is a corrected version of a story that appeared on earlier this week, in which a crucial error in translation caused a serious misinterpretation of the news. CWNews apologizes for the error.

Read the corrected story here.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Real Live Heretics

As you may have guessed based on the number of links in recent posts, I've been spending a good deal of time reading blogs. Too much time. I'm sure that most of you have had this experience, moving from one blog to another, link to link to link to link, for hours and hours. Along the way, I discovered something fascinating (okay, fascinating to me): a small network of blogs by Real Jewish Heretics.

I should explain. Most of you know that apikorsus (the name of this blog) is the Ashkenazi version of an Aramaicized Greek noun that, for traditional Jews, means "heresy." (To those who didn't know, sorry -- I didn't get around to it until just now.) I call my blog "heresy" because much of the content is heretical from an Orthodox perspective, and I have always had one foot in the (Modern) Orthodox community. On a certain level, though, the title is a joke. I don't stay awake nights worrying that I'll have no portion in the World to Come, and I haven't, as far as I know, been excommunicated from any religious denomination.

Let's face it: in the modern world, it doesn't take much to be a heretic. Innumerable* bloggers refer to themselves as such, and it doesn't seem to trouble anyone. No wonder: most blogging heretics are quite benign. There's a junk food heretic, a Star Trek heretic, even a knitting heretic. I used to read the blog of an Episcopal seminary student who used her real name and called herself a heretic. (She recently moved, having decided that the description was no longer appropriate.) Non-conformity is the new conformity.

But then, not everyone lives in what I call the "modern world." Certain right-wing Orthodox communities -- no, all right-wing Orthodox communities -- have resisted modernity to a greater or lesser extent. In such communities, non-conformity isn't chic, and it certainly isn't easy. There have always been doubters, but most have kept quiet. Now they have blogs.

Most these blogs are relatively new. There's mis-nagid, a confirmed atheist in a black hat. Then there's the Hedyot, an "ex-yeshiva guy finally speaking up." Most of the names are self-explanatory: A Hasid and a Heretic, OrthoSceptic, A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, Chassidus Interruptus. Yitzhak Eyezik has just entered the blogosphere, but he hasn't done come in quietly. There is one female in the bunch, Fluffy Keneidele, who is articulate beyond her years. And there are surely more to come.

These aren't people who are simply frustrated with Jewish law or fed-up with frum society. They have fundamental objections to everything they've been taught to believe. Why don't they leave the world that they in which they were raised? I'm sure there are many reasons (some are discussed in the blogs), but surely this is one of them: most of these guys are married, and they are raising kids. Think about those kids, and tell me that the pressure to marry young is not an evil thing.

I'm going to go now, because I have an exam tomorrow and I've spent a ridiculous amount of time composing this post. Those of you who don't have exams should check out those blogs. There will be a few on the links list soon.

UPDATE: Two more: Mishlei Shlomo and Yoinoson Schreiber. (Btw, am I allowed to use the term "blogroll" even though I don't use Typepad? "Links list" sounds stupid.)

CLARIFICATION: It seems that Yitzhak Eyezik is also DovBear. So he's not so new, really.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Worthwhile Reading

. . .especially for my dad, who is now in the business of marketing Jewish meat. I'm referring to the Chayyei Sarah Shabbaton Chronicles as presented by Esther of JDaters Anonymous. Old, but timeless. Start with this post, then move on to the Chronicles proper. Esther has them laid out very neatly, with headings.

(Take note: there are comments on Sarah's posts, even where there appear to be none. It's a Haloscan bug.)

1/5/05: I should probably clarify that by "worthwhile" I mean "hilarious."

Monday, January 03, 2005

From a Grieving Father

This is from Seraphic Secret:

I lurk on Jewish websites for grieving parents and everyone seems to ask the same question about this massive tragedy: what did God have in mind? And anyone who is foolish enough to answer looks, well, foolish. All answers are simplistic and reductive and leave only larger questions that are all but unanswerable. I have no patience for the pat answers that some people propose: It's a test, it's an accounting, ultimately it's all for the good... These truly dumb answers bring out a kind of maniacal fury in me.

When Ariel was sick, I stopped looking for answers because, I quickly discovered, it was a waste of energy. As Job (42:3) says to HaShem: I can understand nothing. It is beyond me. I shall never know.

I think I'm finished cataloguing responses to the tsunamis. There's nothing of value left to say.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Too Good to be True

Ha'aretz has published a list of alleged forgeries associated with Oded Golan. Ralph the Sacred River has an English version. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, read this.)

We're all so hungry for external witnesses to the Bible that it's easy to be duped.

I keep thinking, what kind of people are these? How can someone so well-versed in history deliberately distort our understanding of the past? Is it really for the money? Or is it for the sense of power, the knowledge that they've fooled the experts?

Is this what happens to graduates of programs like mine who can't get jobs? Or are these folks who have turned down academia for the more lucrative business of trafficking in lies? Isn't that what academia is, anyway? No, no! I didn't say that! Shhh!!

That's One Way to Get Attention

Did your New Year's resolutions include spending more time reading Jewish-themed blogs? If so, be sure to browse the JIB Awards nominations at Israellycool. If not. . . well, you can still vote. Nominations are being accepted in thirteen categories, including Best Jewish Culture Blog, Best Jewish Religion Blog, and Best New Blog 2004.