Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wednesday's Weird But True Legal Cases - Vol IX

Tonight's weird but true legal case asks the question of when can you receive a reward for finding a lost object and when can you be subject to criminal liability for seeking a reward for finding the same lost object.

In People v. Dadon, 167 Misc.2d 628, 640 N.Y.S.2d 425 (Crim. Ct. N.Y. Cty 1996) the court dealt with two individuals who were prosecuted for the crime of petit larceny and criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree. The facts provided in the opinion indicate that the victim (apparently legitimately) lost his wallet. He then received a call from someone who had found the wallet and asked how much it was worth to victim - suggesting a sum of $1,000 for the return of the wallet and its contents. The victim agreed to place $1,000 in an envelope addressed to “Adam” and leave it with the hotdog vendor near the St. Regis Hotel at 1:15 p.m. that afternoon. Obviously, the victim notified the police who observed defendant Correa in conversation with defendant Dadon near the St. Regis Hotel at about 1:25 p.m. that afternoon and then saw defendant Correa approach a nearby hotdog vendor. When the police approached Correa they found that he had two wallets, including the one that belonged to the victim.

Following their arraignment, Correa and Dadon sought to dismiss the accusatory instrument, arguing that they had not committed the crimes of Petit Larceny and Criminal Possession of Stolen Property. In so doing, the defendants argued that the act of soliciting a reward for the return of lost property which they briefly possessed is not criminal. They also argued that they took reasonable measures to return the property, did not intend to deprive the owner permanently of that property, and that seeking a reward for its return was lawful. But was it?

Under NY law, a person commits petit larceny if he wrongly withholds another person's property. The statutory definition includes when a person:

exercises control over property of another which he knows to have been lost or mislaid, or to have been delivered under a mistake as to the identity of the recipient or the nature or amount of the property, without taking reasonable measures to return such property to the owner.
NY law also indicates that a person is "guilty of criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree when he knowingly possesses stolen property, with intent to benefit himself or a person other than an owner thereof or to impede the recovery by an owner thereof.”

In framing the issue before it, the court noted that:

when one acquires lost property which he knows to have been lost or mislaid and does not take reasonable measures to return it to its owner, he commits larceny and criminal possession of stolen property if his intent is to dispose of the property for the benefit of himself or another person. See,People v. Colon, 28 N.Y.2d 1, 318 N.Y.S.2d 929, 267 N.E.2d 577 (1971). The issue presented here is, therefore, whether one who seeks to return lost property in return for a reward which he has solicited has made what the statute characterizes “reasonable measures” to return it and whether he has intended, by seeking a reward, to dispose of the property for his own benefit.
After noting that a person may be entitled to a reward under civil law for the return of lost property, the court noted that this entitlement is entirely contingent upon the owner's having first advertised that a reward is available for the person that finds the lost object. The court then clarified that under civil law, a person may not find an object and retain it purposely until a reward is offered.

Well, with that kind of introduction, you know how the court dealt with the criminal matter. In denying the motion to dismiss, the court explained that:

The current larceny and criminal possession of stolen property statutes do not specifically refer to the seeking of a reward for the return of lost property as being acts which render the conduct criminal. They do, however, specifically provide that a person commits a criminal act by withholding lost property with the intent to appropriate the property to himself or another, that is, with an intent to obtain a benefit from the withholding of the property. Clearly, when no reward has been offered by the owner, the seeking of a reward in exchange for the returning of lost property constitutes a withholding of that property with an intent to obtain a benefit. Although in such circumstances the withholding may be temporary, the intent, as required by the statute, is to permanently dispose of the property to one's own benefit in that the reward sought would be a permanent benefit to its receiver. Furthermore, conditioning the return of the property on a reward where none has been offered does not constitute “reasonable measures” to return the property to its owner. Accordingly, larceny and criminal possession of stolen property are committed when one withholds lost property seeking a reward for its return.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Nazir 40

Nazir 40 continues the analysis of possible sources for the rule that a nazir is required to utilize a razor when shaving at the end of the nazir period. In so doing, the gemara attempts to learn this rule from the general principles by levi'im as well as from metzora in that the levi'im must be properly groomed for the avoda and the metzora must shave off all body hair as part of his purification process.

As part of the discussion, the daf makes reference to the gemara in Makkos 20a which details the rules that prohibit Jewish males from cutting off certain parts of the beard. As anyone who has ever been (or taken their son to) a barber knows, this is the source for the rule that the peyot (sideburns) must not be cut off. Ironically, the biblical reference for this law is found in this week's parsha of Kedoshim where at 19:27 the Torah states that you shall not destroy the corners of the beard.

When I was in law school I used to try to find the time to learn daf with my chavrusa, R' Daniel H. We were not always successful in covering whole mesechtot, but we tried to work it into our schedule. We used to have an expression that when the daf referenced that week's parsha or discussed a holiday that was swiftly approaching that "the daf laughs at you." This discussion of the laws of peyot in today's daf would certainly fall into that catrogory.

In any event, since there is a dual reference, I though it appropriate to at least discuss briefly the laws of not trimming one's sideburns too short. The gemara in Makkos indicates that the verse in Kedoshim bars one from making the hair at the temples even with the area behind the ears. The gemara further teaches that there is a separate violation for shaving each temple. So if your barber makes a mistake, you may be better served telling him that it will grow back, rather than having him even it out.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Max Kellerman's Monday Musings Vol IX - The NFL Draft, value of certain players, curtain calls and why Max thinks he let women in on a secret

If you would have asked me my opinion going into the first New York Sports show following the NFL draft, I would have said that it would have been dominated by football. Today's Max Kellerman and Brian Kenny show proved once again that these guys are anything but predictable.

In fairness, there was a little talk about the draft, but it certainly was dwarfed by other discussions. Initially, Max and Brian talked about a player who has been plagued by off the field issues as vicodin and marijuana were found in his car. This then led to what seemed like a canned discussion of why the government should not be banning pot and the purported unfairness that alcohol is legal, while marijuana is not. At least two segments featured calls on this issue, but the discussion from Max and Brian seemed a little too rehearsed, as if they had made this pitch before. While I do not recall hearing max talk about it on 1050 previously, I could not shake the feeling that it was old subject matter for Max Kellerman and Brian Kenny and the discussion lacked the usual level of spontaneity that is a hallmark of their show.

On a more positive note, there were interesting discussions as to whether Jorge Posada is the most valuable Yankee and whether Carlos Delgado should have taken a curtain call on Sunday after he hit two HRs. In relation to Jorge, Max argued that as the slugging catcher on a team with no catching depth, the loss of Posada was devastating for the Yankees. Max Kellerman and Brian Kenny then debated whether it would be as significant as losing other parts such as Mariano Rivera, A-Rod or Derek Jeter. I am not sure that I agree with Max as to Posada's value (if you get power from other hitters and can get a solid defensive catcher, how much have you really lost), but the segment was fresh and made you think.

As to Carlos Delgado, I firmly disagree with the position that he doesn't need to take a curtain call in April if he feels that the fans have been unfairly harsh. Many people who come to Sunday games are not season ticket holders and are just looking to show their kids the joys of baseball. I personally took my kids to the Sunday fiasco which was the 9-7 loss to the Brewers two weeks ago. This was the first game of the season for myself and my kids. Had Delgado performed well and been the subject of request for a curtain call, his refusal would have been a slap in the face of many who only wanted to show their admiration. Although I was not present on Sunday as it was the last day of Passover, I can certainly empathize with the fathers who paid top dollar to take their kids to a Mets-Braves and only wanted to have Delgado come out of the dugout to show their appreciation.

As always, the show also took a turn towards a Torah theme. In today's show, Max Kellerman said that he wanted to let women in on a secret, but was afraid that he "could be assassinated" (his words not mine) for letting the cat out of the bag - that women should not know that men only see them as objects.

Of course, this concept is wholly rooted in Jewish law. The Talmud in Brachot 24(a) discusses the concept of ervah - that men should not look at women they are not married to for the sole purpose of admiring their beauty. The reason for the laws of ervah, whether involving hands, hair, voice or private body parts are all derived from the fact that (as correctly noted by Max Kellerman) men by their very nature do view women as objects. Halacha seeks to prevent us from acting improperly based on these urges by proscribing gazing at women to admire their looks, while at the same time sanctifying marriage in that the vast majority of these rules do not apply to the relationship between a wife and her husband and a husband could and should appreciate his wife's form.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wednesday's Weird Legal Cases - Vol VIII

Tonight's weird but true legal matter involves that stalwart of Pesach provisions - the Rokeach brand. In 1939, a rival manufacturer began to sell wine under the marking "Rokeach Brand". Anxious to protect its good name, Rokeach brought a lawsuit seeking to prevent the rival from marketing its product under the "Rokeach Brand" name. The decision is interesting from more than a legal perspective as it sheds light on Rokeach's history.

As discussed in the opinion, Rokeach was established in was established in 1884 in the City of Kovna, Lithuania, where the (father of the 1939 corporate president) Rokeach engaged in the business of manufacturing soap, which was marked with three Hebrew letters in color. Thereafter,

Mr. Rokeach came to this country and, in 1894, commenced the manufacture of the said soap, using the same three Hebrew letters in color, and also engaged in the production and sale of Kosher vegetable oils and bottled and canned goods for domestic use. About 1906 he formed a partnership with his three sons, under the firm name of I. Rokeach & Sons, which partnership continued in the said business until 1911, when the plaintiff corporation was formed. In addition to the articles already mentioned, the corporation subsequently engaged in the production of honey, cocoa, fruit preserves, fish, soups and other articles and established for itself a wide reputation and good will for its products. The name and trade-mark ‘Rokeach’ became well known as identified with products made and distributed by the plaintiff and its predecessors, and acquired a peculiar significance to the Jewish consuming public, denoting that the goods were produced by the plaintiff and were ritually prepared and permissible for use by Orthodox Jews. It expended a large sum of money in advertising its products in newspapers and periodicals and in displays in retail stores. In all of these advertisements, the name ‘Rokeach’ conspicuously figured.

In March 1939, the rival corporation began advertising in a morning newspaper that it was offering for sale Kosher wine under the name of ‘Rokeach Brand. The name of the rival corporation was also conspicuously displayed in these advertisements. A label somewhat similar to that used by Rokeach was affixed to the bottles and jugs. This label contained in smaller type these words: ‘Kosher for Passover and the entire year. Prepared under the care of Orthodox Rabbis and supervised by Rabbi L. Rokeach.’It also contained what appears to be a seal or stamp in Hebrew letters, with a facsimile signature of said Rabbi Rokeach.

In defending itself, the rival corporation claimed that it had "no intention to deceive or defraud persons purchasing this brand of wine by creating the impression and belief that it was the plaintiff's product. It further claims that, by reason of the fact that the wine is prepared under the supervision of Rabbi Rokeach, it has the right to use his name in connection with the advertisement and sale of its products."

The court refused to allow the rival corporation to continue the use of "Rokeach Brand", explaining that:

While I am of the opinion that there can be no legal objection to the use of the authentication that its products are prepared under the supervision of Rabbi Rokeach, I believe that the conspicuous labeling of its products ‘Rokeach Brand’ would tend to mislead the purchasing public into the belief that this particular brand was the product of the plaintiff corporation. The mere fact that it employs said Rabbi Rokeach on a yearly basis does not authorize it to use the name ‘Rokeach Brand’ in connection with the manufacture and sale of foods or beverages intended for the use of the Jewish people, even though these products may be non-competitive.

You can find the decision in I. Rokeach & Sons v. Atlas Import & Export Corp. at 171 Misc. 407, 11 N.Y.S.2d 864 (Sup Ct Kings Cty 1939).

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Nazir 26

Nazir 26 contains a reference to the quandary of what to do with an item that has been consecrated for a particular purpose, but then cannot be used for that purpose. This question classically arises when a person sets aside an animal to be sacrificed as a chatas offering and then the person dies before the animal is brought up to the beis hamikdash. In the case of the animal, it is left to die as there is no way to redeem it with money and all are barred from deriving any benefit from the animal.

Today's daf then refers to a braisa in which a person had been obligated to bring a chatas and then declared that he now was also obligated to bring an olah offering. If he died and left money behind without specifying what purpose those funds were to be used for, the money must be thrown into the Dead Sea. This is actually the second time that such a concept is mentioned in Nazir as the Mishna on Nazir 24a also discussed money that had been specified for a chatas offering that could not be used for that purpose as the underlying vow that necessitated the bringing of the offering had been annulled. The mishna comments that the portion of the undesignated funds that was to be used for the chatas must be thrown into the Dead Sea. Tosafos d'h Demay explicitly equtes the money that is thrown into the Dead Sea with chatas offerings that must be left to die, explaining that if an animal had been designated it must be left to die so as to avoid deriving benefit from the animal, so too the money must not be allowed to be used beneficially and by tossing it into the Dead Sea it will be similarly incapable of use.

On Sunday Night, the fellow who was teaching the daf (R' Avi P.) told a story of when he was in yeshiva and he needed to redeem money that had been used to be podeh maaser. Since the yeshiva was nowhere near the Dead Sea, he had been instructed to redeem the value with a coin and then hammer the coin into little pieces. Pragmatic approaches win every time.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Max Kellerman's Monday Musings Vol. VIII - Of controversies, Phil Hughes and the Conflict of Work and Family

Today's Max Kellerman and Brian Kenny show dealt with some very human issues in addition to the sports conversation. To start the show there was an admission by Max that any controversial topic that is raised on the show always gets attributed to him. He joked that if someone were to have said "Hitler had a point" it would have been automatically have been attributed to him.

Leaving aside the credit/blame game, there were also some interesting discussions about the Yankees. Max Kellerman said that if you look at Phil Hughes' stat line, he did not perform as poorly as it looks. I am unsure how you can actually spin a stat line of 2 IP, 6 Hits, 6 ER and 3 Ks as a positive. To me, it hearkened back to last year's discussion about how positive the Knicks were in defeat - Eddy Curry being the greatest low post scorer in the NBA or Randolph Morris being a "bonus" First Round pick. Bottom line - the Knicks stunk last year and my nine year old daughter could have had a better stat line then Phil Hughes on Sunday night. Heck, the only pitcher with a worse line on Sunday was Tom Glavine who left the Braves-Nationals game without recording an out. Somewhere, Louie Gold must be smiling about this (he was out today because his wife was ill - I wish her a speedy and complete recovery).

Other baseball talk involved the recovery of the Ortiz shirt from under Yankee stadium, certain decisions made by Joe Girardi over the weekend and whether Steve Phillips will come on the show to debate Max and Brian Kenny.

So where was the Mets talk? Max Kellerman admitted that he had not watched the Mets game because, "sometimes you just have to take your wife out for lunch, or brunch." Brian Kenny then chimed in with an interesting discussion about his early career in broadcasting when he needed to stay home and watch all the NFL games, while he really wanted to go out and throw a football around with his five kids. Max later returned to the topic with a further discourse about how sometimes you need to take your wife out, referring to how they were in their weekend place and he wanted to show Erin some attention and take her out for "lunch or brunch" (he never actually clarified which one, although since the Mets game started at 1 PM, its safe to assume it must have been lunch).

Max's reference to the need to sometimes make time for a spouse's personal needs finds its roots in Torah thought as well. A prime example is that during the first year of marriage, a husband who wishes to learn Torah with a chavrusa outside the home must seek permission from his wife to do so, despite the weight that is normally accorded to learning Torah. Although learning Torah is certainly important, being there with your spouse is more important to establish a firm foundation for the marriage.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sunday Night Suds - Saranac Imperial Stout

Tonight's brew review looks at Saranc's Imperial Stout - a beer with whopping 9% alcohol content, or roughly double the alcohol level of most beers. Saranac introduced its limited edition (aka the High Peaks Series) in 2006 with the Imperial IPA. In late 2007, Saranac expanded its horizon by offering the Imperial Stout.

The label indicates that the High Peaks series offers beers that are "more complex and flavorful, beers that are meant to be sipped and savored." The first time that I had one of these, I did not read the label and learned quickly that you can't drink these with a meal the same way that you would a pale ale or lager. This beer is one stout that carries its name. Indeed, twenty minutes after I poured the beer into the glass, there was still about a 1/4 inch of rich tan foam on top of the glass.

Speaking of glass, I specifically utilized a picture of the beer that also included the Weizen glass that I used to drink the stout. During my beer education, I have learned that various glasses will allow for completely different experiences when drinking the beer. This particular type of glass allowed the chocolate notes in the beer to come out without increasing the bitter aftertaste. I even gave my wife Sarah sips from the glass and bottle and asked her opinion. She concurred that the beer definitely had better flavor from the Weizen glass, but she is not a big fan of stouts so to her this was the lesser of two evils.

Saranac Imperial Stout is a very dark beer that needs to be drunk on its own after the meal. I have on occasion tried stouts with chocolate cake and found that they do work well together (although Brooklyn's Dark Chocolate Stout was even too heavy for chocolate cake). I would not recommend it to be drunk with a meal unless you have something else to drink and the Imperial Stout is just on the side.

Saranac Imperial Stout is under the Kosher Supervision of the Vaad of Detroit as are all beers brewed by Saranac. For the experts' take on the Imperial Stout please click here .

As always, please remember to drink responsibly and to never waste good beer unless there is no designated driver.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Metzora

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by the Rav who substituted for R' Frand and gave tonight's satellite shiur. Unfortunately, they did not identify the Rav by name, so I cannot give proper credit. I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistencies are the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to the Maggid Shiur.

Tonight's shiur was entirely about the Haggadah and the commandment to tell over and learn the Haggadah on the Seder Night. As there was no discussion of Parshat Mitzorah, I have chosen a vort that the speaker said on part of the Haggadah that I felt was quite interesting.

It was said in the name of the Maharal that Hashem came to the Jewish people before they were to leave Egypt and saw that they lacked miztvot. This is alluded to in the Haggadah where it is stated "V'at Erom V'Eryah" that the Maharal explains that we were bereft of Mitzvot. The Maharal further explains that as a result, Hashem gave the Jewish people two commandments - to circumcise their sons and to bring the karban pesach - the paschal lamb. This is also alluded to in the Haggadah where it is written immediately thereafter that I (G'd) came to you and saw that you were in blood and I (G'd) said to you by the blood you shall live, by the blood you shall live. We derive from the double mention of blood that he gave us the mitzva of bris (blood) and paschal lamb (blood).

The Maharal explains that the two mitzvot chosen by Hashem serve to define us as Jews. The circumcision is akin to a passport in that it identifies us as Jews much as a passport identifies which country a person comes from. However, there is more than just an identification that makes us Jews. The Maharal points out that merely because you call something or someone by a particular title, it does not mean that the person or item is actually what you designate. Instead, the person needs to take certain actions that confirm that he is worthy of the designation.

For example (mine not one used by the speaker or the Maharal), a person can be identified as a Met fan in that when he is asked who he wants to win a certain game he answers "the Mets". However, if the person does not wear Met paraphernalia, does not watch any games, does not read the newspaper or listen to a game on the radio or know any players on the team, is he really a Mets fan?

The second mitzva of participating in the Pesach seder goes one step further. Instead of merely identifying ourselves as Jews (by virtue of the Bris) we take an active step to confirm our identities as Jews by participating in the seder that our fathers and grandfathers for generation after generation all performed. It is of no consequence what customs we observe and the differences in our level of observance. What is important is that we take active steps to confirm that we are not only Jews in name (i.e. by our designation since we have a bris). Hashem has given us the additional mitzva of the Seder - a way that our forefathers in Egypt outwardly demonstrated that they were Jews by participating in the Seder and eating the paschal lamb on the night that they left Egypt. We do the same, by continuing to identify ourselves as Jews by participating in our seder as our parents and grandparents before us. Simply put, we are not Jews by designation, we demonstrate who we are by continuing our tradition and having a seder.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Wednesday's Weird Legal Cases - Vol VII

Tonight's weird legal case involves those ubiquitous denizens of the New York City transit system - the swipe sellers. Anyone who has ridden the subway in New York City has been at some time or another been approached by someone who has offered to sell a swipe on their MetroCard in exchange for $1, a price that is half the actual entry fee. Many times, the MetroCard itself is not legitimate, as the seller has bent it in the precise way to fool the turnstile into allowing entry, despite the fact that the card has a zero balance. Tonight's weird legal case involves the criminal prosecution of one such swipe seller and the ingenious way that he attempted to escape criminal liability.

In People v. Mattocks, the Appellate Division, First Department dealt with the appeal from a conviction on the charge of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree (a felony in New York State). Mattocks was accused of using MetroCards with a zero balance that were bent in such a way that the turnstile was tricked into allowing an additional entry. The testimony of the officers who observed him in the subway station indicated that he had been seen selling two or three swipes and that at the time of his arrest, Mattocks possessed three dollars and fourteen bent MetroCards.

After he was convicted at the trial level, Mattocks appealed, arguing that the prosecutor had not proven that that the bent MetroCards found in his possession met the statutory definition of a forged instrument. Central to his argument was that a bent MetroCard no longer resembles an authentic MetroCard to the human eye and, thus, does not replicate the original in all ways.

Why was the resemblance significant? Because the Penal Law defines a forged instrument as a "written instrument which has been falsely made, completed or altered." Since Mattocks neither made nor completed the MetroCard, the prosecutor needed to prove that the card was "altered." Mattocks attacked this theory, asserting that under Penal Law §170.00(6):

"[a] person falsely alters' a written instrument when, without the authority of
anyone entitled to grant it, he changes a written instrument, whether it be in
complete or incomplete form, by means of erasure, obliteration, deletion,
insertion of new matter, transposition of matter, or in any other manner, so
that such instrument in its thus altered form appears or purports to be in all
respects an authentic creation of or fully authorized by its ostensible maker or
Based on this definition, Mattocks argued that the MetroCards in question do not fit within the above statutory definition because a bent MetroCard no longer resembles an authentic MetroCard to the human eye.

Unfortunately for Mattocks, the First Department thought differently, stating that:
The flaw in defendant's argument, however, is that it is not whether the
MetroCards appear authentic to the human eye that is pivotal herein but, rather,
whether the card appears authentic to the electronic eye of the scanning device
embodied in the subway turnstiles. Thus, to be "falsely altered," a written
instrument need not be perfectly altered. Here, the magnetic strip incorporating
the computer data on certain MetroCards, which contained no valid fare, were
altered so that the cards would appear, and be read, as authentic for the
admission of a rider by the turnstile computers. Thus, the MetroCards in
question, in their altered form, "appear[] or purport[] to be in all respects an
authentic creation of or fully authorized by its ostensible maker or drawer."

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tuesday's Thoughts On the Daf - Nazir 19

During the Daf Yomi's journey (or should I say sprint) through shas there are many opportunities to observe the different types of grammar and terms that were used by the Amoraim found in each tractate. Sometimes terms that are used in one capacity in one mesechta are used differently in another. Nazir 18 and 19 are prime examples of this rule.

On Nazir 18b, the Gemara uses the term "Gufa" which usually connotes a return to a text that was previously discussed. However, on 18b, the word "Gufa" is used in conjunction with a return to a prior discussion, despite the fact that the text had never been previously cited in conjunction with the discussion. This point is made by Tosafos D'H "Is" who comments on the usual use of "Gufa" and how some versions of Nazir do not contain the "Gufa" word here because the use of the term is not appropriate in connection with the discussion. Of course the Bach also takes out the word "Gufa" but without the scholarly explanation contained in the Tosafos.

Another example of the difference in terms can be found on Nazir 19b. The Mishna contains a dispute about how long a period of nezirus must be kept in Israel by a person who took a vow of nezirus outside of Israel and then came to Israel after completing the observance of the nezirus period in the diaspora. Following this discussion, the gemara on Nazir 19b starts with the phrase "kitani reisha", which normally means "we learn in the first part of the Mishna." Tosafos D'H "Kitani" (found on Nazir 20a) states that there was no reason to state the term "kitani reisha" here and that it is just another example of how the language of Nazir is meshuna (different).

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Monday, April 7, 2008

Max Kellerman's Monday Musings Vol VII - The best use of Joba, Walking near the TV when your father is watching and Preferring sons to daughters

Today's Max Kellerman and Brian Kenny show was chock full of sports talk. Topics discussed included the best use of Joba, Are the Braves Louie Gold's master, Whether the team with the best player always wins the game in the NCAA tourney, and many other topics too numerous to mention. I would like to focus on just a couple as well as one that Max Kellerman mentioned on Friday.

The show started with Max Kellerman inventing a term for Joba Chamberlin - the "relief ace." Max discussed how there are starting pitchers who are the ace (aka a stopper) as well as closers who are also quite valuable. Max then designated Joba as the "relief ace" who makes sure that the game stays locked down.

Another topic discussed was Louie Gold's perceived fear of the Braves. I think that this may be more of Max and Brian trying to get into Louie's head, since he seems more aggravated by the Braves then afraid of them.

There was also a great quote that I believe that Brian Kenny attributed to Chris Berman. In discussing the NCAA Tournament (which Michael Kay has dubbed the worst in recent memory), both Max and Brian agreed that it really has not been a New York story and that neither has paid that much attention to it. If I am remembering correctly, Brian Kenny said that Chris Berman remarked about an event that he had not followed that "there is only so much room in my head." Great line, I need to save it for a special occasion.

As far as the discussion from Friday, Max Kellerman mentioned something that evoked strong memories of my childhood. He mentioned that if his father was watching a game and he walked near the TV and then the team did something poorly, it was "his fault" that the bad thing had happened. I can recall watching countless Ranger games with my Dad and not being able to talk or move because it was impacting on the game. Not that my Dad said that in so many words, but the stray comment or movement got to him. I hate to say it, but it has somewhat passed down the line as I can't stand it when my kids are running around the room while I am watching a Jet game. I know that no one really believes that the distraction in the room causes their team to lose, but the irrational feeling is still there and I thank Max for letting me in on the fact that its just not me.

Its funny, but Max once told me that it was his personalization that he has picked up from Howard Stern that he believes makes him successful as a radio host. Although sometimes I feel like there is TMI, I do see his point as his entire life (ranging from his attempts at conception to the renovations in the apartment above his) is laid out in the show on a daily basis. It was weird, but from listening to his show on an almost daily basis (I do go to Court sometimes) I felt like I knew him before I actually met him. It was so weird to then see him and hear him talking to Louie, Robin Lundberg and others (including my wife) and realize that everything he says on the air about his life is true. Either the man is a genius or he has no shame. You can draw your own conclusion.

The final topic that I want to discuss has to do with children. Max remarked that women get a "raw deal" in life since they have to carry and give birth to children while "optimal happiness" is only possible if you are a guy. The strong biblical link to Genesis was obvious in this respect as the curse that Eve is given for eating from the tree of life condemns women to the pain of childbirth.

But going beyond the issue of the pain of giving birth (vs male freedom) Max Kellerman's comments also finds their roots in Torah thought from another perspective. We know from the Talmud in Berachot 59(b) that when a son is born the father makes the blessing hatov v'hametiv - that the birth of this male child is good for me as well as others. This is in contrast to the blessing of Shehechiyanu that the Mishna Berurah says that we recite to express our gratitude that a new event (birth of a duaghter) has taken place. Thus, as usual Max has brought Torah thought into his sports show.

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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sunday Night Suds - Tetley's English Ale

Tonight's beer review takes on a British character with a review of Tetley's English Ale - served draught style from a can. Before actually reviewing the brew, a few introductory notes are required.

A uniquely British trait is the use of nitro cans or widgets to maintain the creaminess of their beers when served. These devices cause the beer to pour out very creamy and maintain a white foam that sits on top of the beer in the glass for quite some time. I have seen this in bottle form as Guinness uses a "rocket widget" in their draught bottles to create a cream effect. In can form I have observed this in Boddington and tonight's brew - Tetley's.

It is my understanding that when the nitro cans are produced, the bottler injects the beer with nitrogen so that when the beer is poured into a glass it has a texture and appearance as if it has just been drawn from a tapped keg. Some bottlers call this style smoothflow or creamflow because of the appearance of the beer after it has been poured.

One quick note - when serving and enjoying the nitro cans it is important to pour the beer into a glass and not to drink straight from the can. Leaving aside the fact that anything tastes better from glass than from metal (my father in law will not make kiddush with a silver cup because of the impact that it has on the wine) the full effect of the nitro can and the creamy head can only truly be appreciated by drinking and seeing the beer. I had mine tonight in a Coopers Weizen glass.

As you can guess by now, the Tetley's is truly a creamy ale, or as my wife Sarah remarked tonight - very smooth. If you are looking for full flavored beer that will stand up to the food that you are drinking the beer with, forget about this. On the other hand, if you want a beer that is not too heavy on the palate that you can have a few of without feeling too full, this is your beer. The beer has an extremely mild bitterness in the aftertaste and would be an excellent choice for people who want to experiment with something other than macros but are not yet ready to take the plunge into craft or dark beers.

Tetley's is not under direct supervision, however it does fall within the permitted class of unflavored English beers as defined by various kashrut organizations. I had originally written about the general kosher rules for beers in the first posting of Sunday Night Suds. For an excellent article on the brewing process and the permissible assumption in relation to beer kashrut please click here . For the experts' take on Tetley's please click here .

As always, please remember to drink responsibly and to never waste good beer unless there is no designated driver.

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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Tazria

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand in his shiur this evening. I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistencies are the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

As anyone who has attended (live or by satellite) R' Frand's Thursday night shiur knows, the shiur is usually split into two sections. The first forty minutes is spent discussing a contemporary halachic issue that is referenced in the parsha. The last twenty minutes are thoughts and divre Torah that are directly related to the parsha.

Although this week's parsha is Tazria, there was no vort said about the parsha this evening. Instead, R' Frand devoted the halacha portion of the shiur to the mitzva of kiddush hashem - of giving up one's life and being killed because a person is Jewish. This was done because tonight is the shloshim (30 day commemoration) of the eight young Jewish men who were killed at Yeshiva Mercaz Harav in Jerusalem for the "crime" of being Jewish. I would like just to repeat one part of a thought that R' Frand said on this topic.

The Rambam discusses how the mitzva of kiddush hashem is for all of "Beis Yisrael." Various commentators have views as to what the Rambam meant by saying that the mitzva applies to all Beis Yisrael. The Mahari says that the Rambam meant to include children who are also included in this mitzva, despite the fact that children are generally not obligated to fulfill mizvot until they turn bar or bat mitzva. The Mahari quoted the following poignant Midrash Eicha to demonstrate his point.

The Midrash Eicha tells the story of Miriam Bat Nachtom who was taken captive along with her seven sons. The king asked the first son to bow down to an idol. The son refused. When asked why, he said that the Torah says that "I am Hashem your G-d." The king ordered that he be killed. The king then moved on to the next son and said, will you bow down? This son refused as well and was executed. When asked why, he responded that the Torah says that "Thou shalt have no foreign gods." They then took the third son out and he too refused to compromise his faith, stating that the Torah says that "You shall not bow down to other gods." He too was killed.

Eventually, they came to Miriam's seventh son who was two and a half years old. He too refused to bow to idols. When asked why, he quoted the line from the Aleinu prayer that you shall know and take to heart that there is no other g-d. The king said - do you want to die, you have not yet lived. This did not influence the child. They engaged in additional conversation, but the child was steadfast.

Having seen six of her sons killed, Miriam asked the king to kill her before he was to kill the seventh son. He cruelly denied her wish saying that your Torah says that you can't kill a mother cow or sheep on the same that you kill its offspring. She then instructed her son, when you get up to heaven -- tell Abraham that I have done greater then him. Abraham was ready to sacrifice one son for Hashem, I have lost seven.

To me personally, the story of Miriam Bat Nachtom and the deaths of the eight students at Mercaz Harav underscore the principle that sometimes Hashem allows people to exercise their free will and act in ways that are morally bankrupt. There can be no other logical explanation for the deaths of these kidoshim - these holy individuals who were killed for the crime of being Jewish. The only comfort that can be found is that these holy individuals have acheived the greatest mitzva and are no doubt receiving heavenly reward for not compromising on their faith.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Wednesday's Weird But True Legal Cases - Vol VI

When is an April Fool's day prank obvious enough to avoid liability for defamation? This was the question examined by the Superior Court of the State of Connecticut, Hartford Division, in the matter of Victoria Square, LLC v. Glastonbury Citizen, 49 Conn.Supp. 452, 891 A.2d 142 (Super. Ct. 2006).

In this matter, the Glastonbury Citizen ran a article on April 1, 2004 under the headline "Sakon to Build Hooters, Wal-Mart.” The article stated that the plaintiffs planned to build a 250,000 square foot Wal-Mart store and the state's largest Hooters restaurant. The complex to be built would also, supposedly, include a helicopter launching pad.

The Plaintiffs were not amused by the article and demanded a retraction as they had no intention of building the complex set out in the Glastonbury Citizen piece. When no retraction was printed, the Plaintiffs filed a defamation suit against the paper.

In analyzing the matter, the court stated that although the lawsuit was grounded in defamation, the operative question was whether the article was recognized as parody. In so doing, the court cited to a California decision in Buttons v. National Broadcasting Co., Inc., 858 F.Supp. 1025, 1028 (C.D.Ca.1994) where it was noted that:

The butt of the parody is chosen for some recognizable characteristic or view-point which is then exaggerated. It is not for the court to evaluate the parody as to whether it went too far. As long as it is recognizable to the average reader as a joke, it must be protected or ... parody ... must cease to exist.

In applying this principle, the court concluded that the article was truly a parody and therefore not actionable under defamation law. In so doing, the court stated:

No such reasonable reader could construe the article in question as anything other than a parody. The defendants took considerable care to make it clear that the page where this article appeared did “NOT” contain genuine news stories. The article is surrounded by other mock articles which any reasonable reader would quickly determine to be both false and humorous. Finally, the article itself described development plans which were so extreme as to be obviously preposterous. The plaintiffs were, supposedly, planning to build a 250,000 square foot Wal-Mart store on the property; this would have been substantially larger than the building the plaintiffs wanted to construct. A helicopter launching pad in a shopping center in Glastonbury is equally ridiculous to contemplate. If none of this put the reader on notice that they were reading a parody, the statement that the Hooters logo would be positioned so as to face a local church and an elementary school would almost certainly get the point across.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tuesday's Thoughts On The Daf - Nazir 12

Nazir 12a contains a quandary involving a man who sends another to betroth a girl on his behalf. The agent (presumably after completing his task) dies and does not return. The man then is left in limbo as according to R' Yochanan he cannot marry any woman because there is the possibility that she will be forbidden to him as she may be one of the seven relatives of the woman that his agent had betrothed.

In attempting to resolve the hypothetical question posed by R' Yochanan, the Gemara discusses the concept of rov or majority. This a fundamental concept for talmudical analysis and it is for this reason that I selected it for this post.

There is a general concept that when we are unsure about the status of an item (or person) we may follow the majority (rov) in certain circumstances. The classic example involves meat found in the town square. If a city has ten butcher shops -- nine of which are kosher and one of which sells meat that is not kosher, and a person finds a piece of meat in the town square - can we treat the meat as kosher or not. Applying the principle of rov, we say that since most butcher shops are kosher, the meat must be kosher as well.

As should be expected, there are numerous exceptions to the rule of rov. One of these involves the source of the product. If a person obtained the product in a fixed (kavua) environment, we do not blanketly apply the concept of rov. An example of this would be a person who has purchased the meat, but cannot recall where he purchased it. In this instance, because at the time that he purchased the meat it was in a fixed location, there is no greater than a fifty/fifty chance that the meat is kosher, notwithstanding the ratio of kosher to non-kosher butchers in the city. Given this scenario, we can not allow the meat to be eaten as there is no majority that we can rely on.

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