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13 Old Wants Bris, US Supreme Court Says “Foreskin Stays”?

An interesting case below. Once a boy reaches 13 – his father has no more obligations over his religious observance. If a boy is 13 and wants a bris, then he can get one – without his father’s consent according to Judaism. The mother, again, according to halacha, has no more say once the boy hits 13. If a child can get an abortion without parental consent in some states, can a child get a bris without parental consent?

UPDATE – My good friend Rabbi Zalman Berkowitz at miyan this morning reminded me that a conversion is in almost all cases not complete without the bris. In other words, the Supreme Court is preventing the kid from his religious aspirations by not ruling in favor of the father. It is not going too far out on a limb to come to the conclusion that this case prevents freedom of religion, and is an invasion of privacy. The case now goes back to an Oregon judge to determine whether the boy wants to undergo the procedure.

Supreme Court rejects Oregon circumcision case

By The Associated Press PORTLAND — The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an Oregon dispute between a father who wants to circumcise his 13-year-old son against the wishes of the boy’s mother.

PORTLAND — The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an Oregon dispute between a father who wants to circumcise his 13-year-old son against the wishes of the boy’s mother.

The case now goes back to an Oregon trial judge to determine whether the boy wants to undergo the procedure.

James Boldt converted to Judaism and says his son wants to be circumcised for religious reasons.

But his ex-wife, Lia Boldt, claims that her son is afraid to tell his father that he does not want to undergo the procedure.

The Boldts married in the early 1990s. Lia Boldt filed for divorce in 1998 and initially had custody of their son before James Boldt gained custody.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

Parsha Vaiera – Praying in a city of idols

shem mi shmuel

The Shem MiShmuel discusses a strange discrepancy in the Torah portion. Why does Moshe have to go outside of the city to pray for the plague of hail to stop? In answering the question, the Shem Mishmuel uncovers the deepest mysteries of the plagues.

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Midrash of Hanukkah Rocks: Volume 2

Two years ago I published the first of two volumes of my own commentary on one of the most important commentaries on Jewish life in America that was sadly flying under the radar. Even when recognized, it is usually misunderstood. I am speaking of course about the album Hanukkah Rocks, by The LeeVee’s Hanukkah. The LeeVee’s not only have recorded an album with great melodies, rhythms, and lyrics, but they have authored a profound statement on the nature of being Jewish, Jewish values, Jewish nationhood, and Jewish philosophy.

Looking at Hanukkah Rocks from a rabbinical perspective, the issues, the topics, the mitzvahs literally leap off the page, it all screams darsheni “interpret me!” What follows is the long anticipated sequel to Volume 1, humbly called the Midrash of Hanukkah Rocks: Volume 2.
Kugel
(6th song on the album)
Reaching into the pleasures of the Jewish feast, kugel becomes a metaphor for a discussion on the nature of Jewish traditions. Kugel, a heavy, sweet and creamy baked noodle dish that the LeeVees remember Grandma making, has undergone a radical shift. Brought on by low-fat concerns, and other seemingly important cultural and social factors, kugel has been fundamentally altered, nigh, desecrated. Their mother’s kugel just isn’t the same as Grandma’s kugel. Which brings up a discussion about Minhag Yisroel, Torah Hi, “Jewish custom’s pre-eminence is religious matters.” This rabbinic adage, ascribing the importance of tradition and custom in religious practice, is an honest warning against wanton abandonment of Jewish ways. They sing in kugel “So don’t try to tell me things they haven’t changed/ the way your made these days you should have another name/ I just wish things stayed the same.” Is this not an appeal to forestall the wanton abandonment of Jewish tradition, the reckless endangerment of Jewish civilization through casting off seemingly unimportant cultural and religious artifacts that we have adopted on our journey through 2000 years of exile?

And if this is not an appeal to rejoice and empower a return to minhag avos, beautiful traditions left by the wayside. Is this not a a call to respect traditions. It is not by accident that Fiddler on the Roof uses the refrain, Tradition, to concentrate Jewish experience into one word. Kugel, is Tradition, in hipster speak.

“Now I’m getting hungry… ” In other words, there is a deep longing for meaningful traditions—not fluff, not new-age shallowness, not cultural appropriation and misappropriation of the sacred creeds of other traditions, melted into a Judaism.

“Sorry mom your just ain’t the same…” I respect where my parents have gone, but truly, they have gone so far, that we have lost the essence of being Jewish, the path of spirituality, the deep connections to our creamy-thick and rich past.

At the Matzah Ball
Song #7
Almost nowhere in contemporary music has their been a more poignant and beautiful ballad in favor of Jewish continuity, the importance of finding your beshert. Jewish artists rarely take this issue head on. They don’t want to upset the apple cart —many of their fan base is not upset by the specter of intermarriage and deep assimilation. They write fluffy songs. They fill the airwaves with all kinds of gooey stuff, but when the rubber hits the road—the future of the Jewish community—they have let us down.

The LeeVees have taken the issue by the horns, and have penned an appeal to Jewish men: find a Jewish girl. “Jewish girls all shapes and sizes, waiting for you…” you might be convinced that all Jewish girls are the same—they aren’t. God created Jewish women and men in great diversity. Each person has a beshert. We don’t know when or where we will meet them, it might even be while you are sitting on a metal folding chair at the JCC’s mitzvah ball.

“Didn’t know you were a member of the tribe,” You might not even realize, sing the LeeVees, that the girl you have been looking at is Jewish! She might not wear her tribal affiliations around her neck. That doesn’t mean that being Jewish is not important to her. She can be a passionate and dedicated Jew, and be a private person.

There is another message of the song, hidden beneath the layers of harmony and a catchy beat: “Loneliness won’t keep you warm in winter.” They are telling us, don’t be a martyr on the alter of your ego. And don’t think that your true happiness will come in playing the field indefinitely. Is it an accident that Chanukah comes now? And finally, the moral of the story, perhaps, is that we cannot find our beshert, without looking for them.

Gelt Melts
Song #8
Again, the LeeVees use the metaphor of a common Chanukah celebration, in this case the eating of chocolate coins, to instill a deep message about performing mitzvas and the nature of why we do mitzvahs.

Many times we are confronted with the thoughts of why it is a mitzvah to do this or that—eat matzah on Passover, wave the lulav, not eat milk and meat together—and we are stumped. It makes no sense.

One of the primary reasons we do mitzvahs is not because we understand always the nature of the mitzvah. We do mitzvahs with the belief that we will internalize an essential connection to God through performance of mitzvahs. Later, we will come to an understanding. It will not be apparent, it may not come right away. Nonetheless we cannot refrain from doing mitzvhas, because life is short. Life is fleeting, life melts as fast chocolate coins in your pocket.

Of course we will be ridiculed by the world. The world will look at our mitzvahs and try to humiliate us with them—but look who is talking! As they sing “If goys can eat a chocolate bunny, why cant we eat chocolate money?” The goyim might ridicule some of our traditions, some of our mitzvahs, but look whose talking! And chocolate bunnies is just the start.

“You gotta get while you can, won’t last long/we don’t claim to have the answer this song/but your good thing will be gone” Mitzvas are fleeting. You cannot make Kiddush Sunday morning. You can’t make up for Chanukah in January. The time is now. Carpe Mitzvah!

Nun Gimmel Heh Shin
#9
You might think that dreidel is just a game. Dredel is really an eloquent way to teach children about life, giving, service, self sacrifice, thinking of others. This song goes against the entire grain of society now, which is all about me, all “I” this and “I” that. Where is the “thou” where is the other? Life is about giving. “You’ll get out what you put in.”

Nun, Gimmel, Hey, Shin then teaches us that even the most innocent of Jewish childhood games has depth, character, and instructs us in the game of life. It is sacred. It is innocent. It is wholesome. Those that organize Texas Hold-em Dreidel contests, dreidel drinking games, and strip- dreidel, are contributing to the profound degradation of our consciousness, denigrating the innocent game at the expense of vice. They let chronic pornography, gambling addiction, and alcoholism become acceptable. The Maccabbes fought to save us from the Hellenism! The debasement of dreidel gives the Greeks a posthumous victory. Dreidel needs to stay just dreidel.

See below for Volume One: Read more

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Tefillin are da bomb

I have always wondered what fellow passengers on trains, planes, buses, and cars have thought of the box strapped to my head with black leather. My Tefillin. What do they think of these bobbing mumbling semitic folks with outlandish headgear? Well, it seems in the age of Homeland Insecurity, and Orange Terror Alerts, these leather boxes we Jews have been strapping to our heads and arms for millennia are a perceived threat. Ynetnews reports:

A Jewish passenger on a Chicago train was arrested after fellow passengers accused him of being a suicide bomber.

The incident took place on a train that left Chicago early in the morning – when Jewish men are obligated to put on tefillin (phylacteries). The passenger began strapping the head-tefillin to his forehead and passengers unfamiliar with the custom rushed to the conductor and told him there was a man on board who was fastening a box to his head with wires dangling from it.”

The conductor approached the passenger but the latter refused to answer him as he was in the middle of the prayer, heightening the conductor’s suspicions.

Meanwhile, the passengers grew even more frantic when they noticed that the passenger sitting next to the Jewish man had a Middle-Eastern appearance and wore a turban.

“That was too much,” said the Bob Byrd, NICTD chief of security.

The passengers panicked and the engine driver stopped the train. Police officers rushed into the train with a bomb-sniffing dog.

Police investigators soon realized their mistake and apologized to the passenger.

“This incident has given us all an opportunity to learn about other religions and their customs,” said the chief of security.