Thursday, July 31, 2008

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Masei

Normally, the Thursday night parsha post on this blog slot contains a thought said over by R' Frand in his satellite shiur. Since the shiur is now on hiatus through Elul, I will be substituting with divrei torah found in other sources. As always, if the p'shat appears to be incorrect, it is a result of my efforts to convey the thought that I found in the sefer.

In Masei 35:9-34, the Torah discusses the establishment of "Arei Miklat" - cities of refuge where people who killed b'shogeg (translated for our purposes as unintentionally) would travel to escape the goel hadam - the avenger of the blood of the deceased. The Torah devotes a great deal of time to the discussion of the establishment of the cities and to which types of acts would qualify as unintentional and allow for the killer to seek refuge. I would like to focus on three concepts in this post.

Prior to actually detailing the laws of the Arei Miklat, the Torah alludes to their establishment. In Masei 35:6, the Torah indicates that Hashem directed the Jews to set up six cities which will be Arei Miklat and that the levi'im will have an additional forty-two cities in addition to those six cities. The sefer Ohev Yisrael (as brought in the Ma'ayana Shel Torah) teaches that the six cities are in accordance with the six words which comprise the Shma Yisrael. The Ohev Yisrael then says that the words "V'aleihem Titnu" that on those six cities you should provide an additional forty-two cities (totalling 48 cities) are in accordance with the forty-eight words of the V'ahavta portion of the Shma. The Ohev Yisroel explains that the six words of the Shma and the forty-eight words of the V'ahavta are our cities of refuge, providing a place for all the Jews to seek protection, even if they committed an evil deed. By accepting Hashem through the recitation of the shma, the Jew will gain the protection from the goel hadam - the negative angels that are created as a result of his act.

The Chidushei Harim (also brought down in the Ma'ayana Shel Torah) explains the manner in which the city of refuge functioned. He states that if a person killed unintentionally and is so guilt wracked that there is nowhere that he feels comfortable due to his bitterness and self loathing over the killing, then Hashem says to the person - I have a place for you, the city of refuge will take you in. On the other hand, if the person is not distraught over the killing and is comfortable where he resides, the city of refuge will not take him in and he will not have a place in the ir miklat.

The Ma'ayana Shel Torah then brings the Sfas Emes who analogizes this concept taught by the Chidushei Harim to the high holidays. If a person feels true guilt over his misdeeds during the year and pours out his heart on Yom Kippur and accepts on himself to repent from his sins which cause him to feel that he has no place in this world, then Hashem says to the person - I have a place that can take you in -- the walls of the Sukkah will envelop you and protect you from evil.

I once heard a similar thought from R' Zev Cohen of the Adas Yeshurun in Chicago. He talked about how after the person has gone through Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and poured out his heart, he enters the Sukkah which is Hashem's way of giving the Jews a big reassuring hug.

I would like to discuss one additional point. The Rambam in Hilchos Rotzeach 8:5 writes that the Beis Din must prepare paths to the ir miklat and widen them as required. They must also smooth out the path and prepare bridges. If the way to the ir miklat requires one to take a road that forks, the Beis Din must set up a clear sign so that the person can swiftly get to the ir miklat and escape the goel hadam.

I feel that the acts that the Beis Din does are precisely like what Hashem does for us before the High Holidays. The chazal teach us "Haba Litaher Misayin Oso" - one who wants to repent, Hashem helps him to do so. The same way that the Beis Din set up the road to allow access to one who truly agonizes over his acts and wants to seek refuge in the ir miklat, so too Hashem makes our way to teshuva accessible before Yom Kippur so that we can be enveloped in the protective hug of the sukkah.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click here to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wednesday's Weird But True Legal Cases - Vol XXI

Tonight's weird (but true) legal case looks at Matter of Fauntleroy v. Kelly, 4 Misc.3d 1014(A), 791 N.Y.S.2d 868 (Sup. Ct. NY Cty 2004), in which an applicant for a gun license asked the court to review the Police Commissioner's rejection of his application. The reason that his license was rejected? For this and many other interesting facts, read on...

As a brief introduction, New York law allows the licensing officer (in Nassau, Suffolk and NY City this would be the police commissioner) wide discretion to approve or reject an application for a pistol license or to cancel an existing license. If a person is aggrieved by the decision, he can appeal it to a Supreme Court Judge. Once the matter comes before the Judge the decision of the Police Commissioner is nearly always upheld, as the Judge may only reverse the decision if it is arbitrary and capricious, i.e. not based on any facts that would suggest that the applicant is unsuitable for the license.

In Fauntleroy, the applicant had previously held a pistol license which was revoked by the Police Commissioner. In July 1996, Fauntleroy was advised by police officers that someone was trying to break into his basement. Believing that his family was in danger, Fauntleroy fired several shots from his window in order to scare away the intruder. The shots were fired at the base of a tree which was on his property. Fauntleroy was arrested for reckless endangerment, but the charge was dismissed. (The intruder was convicted on the burglary charge).

Following the incident, the police department conducted an investigation which culminated in an offer that Fauntleroy agree to a six month suspension of the existing license, to be followed by a 1 year probation period. Fauntleroy disagreed and went to a hearing at which time the hearing officer recommended that he be permitted to keep his license. The commanding officer of the licensing division did not follow the recommendation and suspended Fauntleroy's license for shooting at a fleeing felon. Fauntleroy did not appeal the decision.

Approximately one year later, Fauntleroy filed a new application for a license. This was denied by the police, based on the 1997 revocation of the license. Fauntleroy challenged the denial, but the trial court and ultimately the appellate division upheld the commissioner's ability to deny the application based on the revocation less than two years prior.

In 2003, Fauntleroy filed another application which was rejected by the police. In so doing, the police informed him that “Due to the revocation of your pistol license, you are prohibit [sic] to possess a firearm as per Penal Law section 400(1)(e) [sic], 400.00(1)(e).”

Fauntleroy appealed the decision by filing an Article 78 petition challenging the denial as arbitrary, capricious and affected by errors of law. In discussing the standard of law to be applied, the court explained:

An application for a renewal is treated in the same manner as an application for a new license, and the inquiry of the court is limited to a determination of whether the record discloses circumstances which leave no possible scope for the reasonable exercise of that discretion. However, in an Article 78 proceeding, the reviewing court is not expected to act as a mere rubber stamp, but, rather, exercises a genuine judicial function and does not confirm a determination simply because it was rendered by an administrative agency. Here,the record shows that the sole basis for denial of petitioner's 2003 pistollicense application was that Respondent felt that Penal Law § 400.00(1)(e)mandated such result because of the prior revocation of his pistol license.

The court then noted that Penal Law §400.00:

does not, contrary to the position apparently taken by respondent in denying petitioner's most recent application, make any prior revocation of a pistol permit for any reason whatsoever an automatic bar to the issuance of a permit,but, rather only makes such a bar mandatory where the prior revocation was due to the issuance of a temporary or permanent order of protection pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law § 530.14 or Family Court Act § 842-a. It is clear that the lifetime revocation of firearms license privileges referred to in Penal Law § 400.00(1)(e) applies only to a person who has had a license revoked because of the issuance of a temporary or permanent order of protection to protect against acts of domestic violence. It is undisputed that no such order of protection was ever sought, let alone issued, against petitioner. Therefore, respondent's determination was affected by an error of law.

Since the decision was based on an error of law, the court remanded the matter back to the police department to reconsider its decision. Prior to doing so, the court noted that:

it has now been seven years since petitioner's earlier permit was revoked. Nothing has been submitted to question petitioner's good conduct or good character in the intervening seven years. This factor should be taken into account in the reconsideration of the application. If this factor is not considered, then respondent is effectively arguing that every revocation is a permanent revocation. The court has not been cited to any such rule.

If you would like to see the full text of the decision, please click this link

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click here to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Gittin 18

Gittin 18 continues a discussion that began on daf 17b about the need for a date in a document and the ramifications of documents with dates that do not accurately reflect the date upon which an act was performed.

As part of the discussion, the gemara digresses and talks about the time of signing of a kesubah. The gemara bring Shmuel who says that a kesubah is like a finding of beis din -- just as the finding of beis din may be made during the day, but recorded at night, so too a kesubah may be written during the day and signed by the witnesses at night. The gemara then tells a story involving the kesubah of the wife or R'Hiya bar Rav that was written during the day and signed at night. Although Rav was present, he did not object to the signing at night because the sofer and witnesses were constantly involved. Rashi explains that the witness actually were ready, willing and able to sign during the day, but they were forced to wait until nightfall to sign because of the actions of the sofer.

The problem that I had with the gemara is that our current tradition will not accept the leniency of signing the kesubah at night. As anyone who has attended a winter wedding knows, they will rush to try to get the wedding ceremony in before nightfall so as to ensure that the kesubah is given the same day that it is written. However, based on the leniencies of Gittin 18, there should be no problem if the ceremony starts after the end of the day. R' Ephraim G of my daf yomi group said in the name of R' Moshe Feinstein (I believe quoting the Dibros Moshe) that the difference was that in the times of the gemara there already was a true eirusin prior to the nissuin, so the time of the signing was not all that significant. Since we have noth erusin and nissuin during the same ceremony, we do not want to have the ceremony on a later date than the kesubah.

On the bottom of 18a, the gemara begins an analysis of R' Shimon's position in the mishna that if the get is written during the day but signed at night it is still a proper get. In so doing, the gemara mentions that Reish Lakish believed that R' Shimon would only permit the get to be signed at night if it was signed the night that immediately followed the writing of the get. Meanwhile, R' Yochanan states that according to R' Shimon the signing could be even ten days later.

In explaining Reish Lakish's reasoning, the gemara states that there is concern that if more than a day elapsed the husband and wife might reconcile (temporarily). If the get was given later, there would be a danger that the get would be a get me'ushan, thus calling into question the legitimacy of the children. Tosafos (d'h "Chaisheenan") asks - why do we not have this concern with other gittin, such as a get that is brought from overseas and delivered to the wife six months after it was written? Tosafos answers that there is no concern because in such a scenario where the witnesses have signed and all that is left is the delivery of the get, there is little danger that the parties will reconcile. Whereas before the get is signed by the witness, there would still be a danger that a temporary reconciliation could create a get me'eushan.

In discussing R' Yochanan's thinking, the gemara explains that we are unconcerned about the danger of get me'ushan during the intervening period between writing and signature, because if the parties do reconcile (even temporarily) everyone will know that they have reconciled. Rashi explains this quite literally, stating that when the couple is fighting before he commissions the get, the neighbors hear the fighting. Rashi then writes that if the couple were to reconcile the neighbors would be aware because they would not hear any more fighting. This would then become widely known and there would be no danger of a get me'ushan.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click here to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Max Kellerman's Monday Musings Vol XX - Of Baseball and Intuition

Today's Max Kellerman show was a solo act as Brian Kenny is on vacation for the week. While the show has previously been supplemented with remarks from Louie Gold and Robin Lundberg, Max was forced to carry the show, as the only other voice from the 1050 studio belonged to the update guy - Bob Gallerstein. Its a shame that listener support to bring Robin and Louie back on the air has basically died off. I can't remember the last time I heard a free Louie and Lundberg call. Meanwhile, last week Max made a fleeting reference to the empty suits' ban on comments from the crew, saying that Ray the Board Op is the only guy that they (I can only assume that this means the empty suits at ESPN corporate) have not told Max that he may not speak to.

Max had a couple of interesting angles when he was not inflating the collective ego of the Yankee bullpen. He posed a question as to whether Mets fans wanted Manny traded by the Red Sox to a Manuel. I did not realize that Manny's previous hitting coach was (the current Phillie Manager) Charlie Manuel.

Max also asked which option New York sports fans would prefer - Brett Favre to the NY Jets or Manny Ramirez to the NY Mets. Although I am a fan of both teams and try to watch every Jet game on TV, I would still prefer the ManRam to the Mets trade since they have a better chance of winning a championship. I love my Jets, but they have little shot at winning the division and no possibility of making the Super Bowl.

The Yankee bullpen puffery continued with gems such as Jarrod Washburn being inferior to Dan Giese. I can't imagine any baseball professional who would choose a 31 year old rookie who has pitched 19 games in his career over a left handed starter who consistently gives you 200 innings and a WHIP around 1.3. Another pearl was that the Yankees "don't even need" Damasco Marte because he is the fourth best pitcher in the pen. While Edwar Ramirez and David Robertson (other than his stinker this evening) have given decent performances in limited duty, you simply cannot underestimate the value of getting a left handed reliever (the only one on the team) with a career WHIP of 1.25. Again, a pitcher with a proven track record of results would seem to be more valuable. But I can't complain too much as the discussion about getting the monument ready for Brett Gardner has died down.

An interesting point that Max Kellerman made in relation to the Marte/Nady had to do with instinct and knowing when to make moves (such as trading assets). Max pointed out mistakes made by general managers who held onto prospects for so long that when the player finally was traded, the value had greatly diminished. Examples pointed out by Max were Aaron Heilman and Jose Tabata.

The idea of trusting one's instinct when your little voice tells you that you need to act, reminds me of a story that I recently heard from R' Burg of Israel NCSY. He talked about a woman (I believe her name was Esther) who on a Friday morning got a strong feeling that she and her husband should go visit her sister in Ashkelon for shabbos. She called her husband who tried to talk her out of going because they had already made plans that their children and grandchildren who lived nearby would walk over for Friday Night supper. As she had already been cooking up a storm, what sense did it make to go away?

Esther managed to convince her husband that they should go away for shabbos. When they returned home, they found that a kassam launched from Gaza had hit their home. R' Burg related that when he visited Esther's home, she pointed out that the rocket had entered through a second story room where her grandchildren played and then travelled down through the house (leaving shrapnel embedded in the walls of the staircase) before landing in the dining area. Had she not trusted her instincts, she and her children and grandchildren would have been home when their house was attacked and the results could have been catastrophic.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click here to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday Night Suds - Redhook ESB + 9 Days Havdalah Guide

Tonight's Sunday Night Suds beer review looks at the most common Redhook brew that can be found in the Northeast market, the ESB. The post will also provide a little direction for those wondering what to use for havdalah next Saturday night.

Redhook ESB is a bit of a misnomer - while ESB stands for Extra Special Bitter, the ESB is not a highly bitter beer and is not even the most bitter of the brews offered by Redhook (that honor is claimed by the Longhammer IPA). Redhook ESB is a medium bodied ale that has a little bit of fruitiness and is quite refreshing. It would partner well with chicken, beef dishes and I have found that it blends well with spicy Chinese or Israeli food.

Redhook ESB is under the Kosher Supervision of the Orthodox Union as are all all beers that I have seen produced by Redhook. For the experts' take on the ESB please click here .

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

Bonus section - 9 days havdalah guide

In years past, I have been approached in shul on shabbos chazon (the saturday within the summer nine days mourning period) and asked what would be a good choice to make havdalah on. By way of introduction, on Saturday nights after the evening prayer is said, Jews have a special set of blessings that are said by which we separate between the holy shabbos and the rest of the week. There is a custom to say this prayer on a cup of wine, however this custom needs modification when the Saturday falls during the nine days of mourning. The reason for modification is that during the nine days period, Jews do not eat meat or drink wine under most circumstances unless it is shabbos. As the shabbos has just ended, the wine can not be used for the havdalah blessings. The question then becomes, how does one fulfill the havdalah requirement?

The answer in simple terms is that havdalah can be made on beverages other than wine. Indeed, my father in law will use diet soda (he's from Chicago where they call it pop, so he probably cringed when I wrote soda). I recall as a child seeing my father on one occasion use hard alcohol for havdalah. As long as the alcohol is not grape derived, it is fine for havdalah. The problem of course becomes how do you put out the havdalah candle with the contents of your cup without setting the house on fire.

The simplest answer to the havdalah dilemma (and one that is widely recommended by rabbinic authorities) is to use beer, which in the time of the talmud was called chamra d'medina - the wine of the masses. This brings the question full circle as to what I would recommend?

The number one problem with the question is that most people who ask it don't generally drink beer, so they need to have something to use for havdalah that won't have them making faces in their attempt to drink the halachic minimum level for the blessing. The second problem is that since the havdalah cup is imbibed on its own (i.e. without the benefit of food) people who might be inclined to have a beer with a meal will still have problems finishing their cup when the beer is consumed on its own.

The easiest solution is not to have beer, but instead to make havdalah on what is commonly called alcopop. These are malt beverage drinks with some similarities to beer and a beer-like 5% alcohol content by volume, but do not have the beer taste. Some examples are the Boston Beer Company (aka Sam Adams) Twisted Teas and the Zima beverages produced by Coors. Another example would be the Smirnoff Twisted V/Twisted Ice line. However, caution is urged as not every flavor is certified Kosher. For the complete list of those Smirnoff products approved by the CRC, please click here .

If you do like beer, or would like to drink something that is more manly than alcopop, the next step up would be an American wheat beer (such as the Blue Moon line, Saranac's Hefewiezen or Pomegranate Wheat) or some of the better Summer Ales such as Brooklyn Brewery's or Sam Adams' Summer Ale. Many of these beers have been reviewed on the pages of this blog and you can search through prior Sunday Night Suds reviews to find one that might appeal to you.

If you are a beer aficionado, you obviously won't need this post to tell you which ale or lager you should crack open for havdalah.

May the world have a tikkun from our three weeks/nine days observances and may tisha b'av soon be transformed to the holiday that the gemara tells it will be in the times of moshiach bimheira biyamenu.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click here to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Matos

Normally, the Thursday night parsha post on this blog slot contains a thought said over by R' Frand in his satellite shiur. Since the shiur is now on hiatus through Elul, I will be substituting with divrei torah found in other sources. As always, if the p'shat appears to be incorrect, it is a result of my efforts to convey the thought that I found in the sefer.

In Matos 31:2, Moshe is told by Hashem to take revenge against the people of Midyan. Rashi brings the Sifri who explains the reason the Jews were told to take revenge against the people of Midyan and not the people of Moab. The Sifri explains that the people of Moab had a reason to go to war against the Jews, since they were concerned that the Jews were going to make life difficult for them. Meanwhile, the people of Midyan got involved in a feud that had nothing to do with them, so Hashem instructed the Jews to go to war against them.

The Yalkut Lekach Tov cites the Orchos Chayim (by way of the sefer Zichron Mayir) to explain the lowliness of of someone who gets involved in someone else's argument. When people fight, it is usually in relation to a specific item or problem. If down the road they resolve the issue, the relationship can be similarly mended. On the other hand, if there was never a basis for involvement in the feud there is no easy way to resolve the dispute, as we cannot say that now that the problem is solved, go back to the way things were.

This problem of fighting or hating for no reason (sinas chinam) is viewed as a destructive force. The gemara in Shabbos 32a writes that because one hates for no reason, a person will then have feuds within their own home, one's wife will have miscarriages and children will die.

The Yalkut Lekach Tov brings another proof to how seriously sinas chinam is viewed. In the Yom Kippur davening, after Modim we say a prayer that begins "Avinu Malkeinu Z'chor Rachamecha" (our father, our king, remember your mercy). As part of this prayer, we ask Hashem to remove an exhaustive list of problems from our midst, including pestilence, war, destruction... The last item in the list is sinas chinam. It is known from the gemara in Bava Basra 8b that lists generally go from light to heavy - thus showing how seriously sinas chinam is viewed.

In order to remedy the problem of sinas chinam, the sages instruct us to engage in ahavas chinam, to love one's neighbor - not because you admire any one of his qualities, just because he is a fellow Jew. Occasionally, you will meet people who radiate ahavas chinam - the person that comes to mind as the modern day icon of ahavas chinam is R' Meir Schuster of the Heritage House in Jerusalem.

The interplay of sinas chinam and ahavas chinam can be seen in the Shoshanas Ya'acov prayer read after the megilla on Purim. The Yalkut Lecach Tov discusses how the prayer contrasts opposites - but in so doing seems to be terse. Within the prayer we say cursed is Haman who sought to destroy us, blessed is Mordechai the Jew. Why does the prayer augment Haman while merely praising Mordechai for being jewish? The answer is that even to hate a Haman (like the Midyanites in the parsha) there needs to be a reason - because he sought to destroy us. On the other hand there is no specific reason needed to justify blessing Mordechai - we should do so simply because he is a Jew, notwithstanding his admirable feats.

In this time of sorrow (as we have commenced the three weeks of mourning) we can learn from the way that Midyanites are treated and try to engage in ahavas chinam.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click here to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wednesday's Weird But True Legal Cases - Vol XX

In honor of Hall of Fame Weekend at Cooperstown and the Mets return to first place in the National League East, today's weird (but true) legal cases takes on a baseball flavor and asks - can an apparel manufacturer who buys the right to a photo still be barred from using that photo on its merchandise? This was the question that the court needed to resolve in Shamsky v. Garan Inc., 167 Misc.2d 149, 632 N.Y.S.2d 930 (Sup. Ct. NY Cty 1995).

In Shamsky, the court examined a matter in which Garan, Inc. purchased the right to use a team photo of the 1969 Miracle Mets from the Baseball Hall of Fame. Garan proceded to use the photo on a jersey which also contained the name of the players and some statistical data.

As Garan had not sought permission from the players (nor paid them in all likelihood) for the use of their names and images, the players sued Garan under New York's Civil Rights Law §§50 and 51 to prevent the distribution of the shirts. As noted by the court, a violation of New York's Civil Rights law “consists of only two elements: the commercial use of a persons's name or photograph and the failure to procure the person's written consent for such use.”

In defending the lawsuit, Garan argued that under the players' contract with the Mets, they had waived any right to challenge the use of their names and likenesses. The relevant portion of the contract provided:

The Player agrees that his picture may be taken for still photographs, motion pictures or television at such times as the Club may designate and agrees that all rights in such pictures shall belong to the Club and may be used by the Club for publicity purposes ... The player further agrees that during the playing season he will not make public appearances, participate in radio or television programs or permit his picture to be taken ... or sponsor commercial products without the written consent of the Club, which shall not be withheld except in the reasonable interests of the Club....

The court did not accept Garan's argument for three reasons. Initially, the court explained that "it is arguable [under the contract] that the team can only use the picture for publicity purposes, which is not what was done here." Secondly, the court explained that the second sentence of [the relvant portion of the contract]clearly contemplates that each player retains the right to commercial exploitation of his identity (albeit this right is restricted during “the playing season”). It is common knowledge that sports personalities retain the right to make commercial endorsements, etc., and do not cede this right to their teams."

Finally the court noted that:

the players are not seeking to assert a right “in the picture”; they are seeking to assert a right to the commercial exploitation of their identities. Clearly the team could not crop one player's picture from the 1969 Mets Team Photo and use it to sell breakfast cereal or running shoes. In Cohen v. Herbal Concepts, 63 N.Y.2d 379, 384, 482 N.Y.S.2d 457, 472 N.E.2d 307 (1984), the court stated that Civil Rights Law §§ 50, 51 are “designed to protect a person's identity, not merely a property interest in his or her ‘name’, ‘portrait’ or ‘picture’....” Thus as a matter of contract interpretation plaintiffs did not authorize the Mets Ballclub to use the 1969 Mets Team Photo in contravention of what would otherwise be plaintiffs' personal, respective rights to publicity.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click here to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tuesday's Thought's on the Daf - Gittin 11

Gittin 11 continues a discussion that commenced on Gittin 10b, regarding the efficacy of legal documents that were produced in secular courts. As part of the discussion, the gemara makes reference to a question posed by Rava as to whether a document prepared by a Persian layman which was both written in Persian and signed off by Persians can be effective if it was delivered to the creditor in front of two proper witnesses. One of the challenges raised to the use of the document was whether the document was able to be tampered with. Rashi relates that during the time of the gemara, the parchment used for documents was pretreated with gall nut extract so that if anyone attempted to erase words and change the document, the erasure would show up against the brown colored document.

Tosafos (d'h B'daftzan) asks how we can prepare documents now (about 1100 CE) when the paper used for their documents was not prepared with gall nut extract. Tosafos also asks how holy scrolls such as Torahs, Tefillin and Metzuzos are prepared without the addition of the extract. Tosafos answers on a practical basis, noting that the limestone extract added to their paper also prevents fraudulent tampering. Additionally, Tosafos bring a gemara from Menachos 31b in which it is explicitly learned that a Torah can be written with or without the gall nut extract.

The gemara then asks, but perhaps the Persian document fails for another reason as the document does not have a concluding line that sums up the document. Rashi (d'h Mayinyano) makes reference to the gemara in Bava Basra 161b that requires the use of the phrase "V'kanina" at the end of the get pashut. I recall that when my Rebbi reviewed the kesuba that was used at our wedding, he was careful to extend the kuf of the V'kanina that appears in the end of the kesuba. I wonder whether this was for the same purpose.

On the bottom of 11a (spilling over to the top of 11b) Reish Lakish asks R' Yochanan about the efficacy of a get that had come from Israel with signatures from people whose names appeared to be gentile. The question reminded me of a thought said by R' Noach Weinberg of Aish HaTorah (he should have a refuah shleima) as related to be by my father. R' Weinberg said that if a student comes to him and tells him that he wants to learn at Aish, but he has a last name that is commonly Jewish, R' Weinberg will inquire as to whether his mother is Jewish. However, if the individual has a last name that is clearly not Jewish in origin, it means that the person is probably Jewish (since in all likelihood his belief that he is Jewish comes from the fact that his mother is Jewish).

Previously on Gittin 11a, the Gemara made reference to confusion that could be caused if a document came from outside of Israel and the names of the witnesses were unclear as to whether they were Jewish or not. One other thought that I was reminded of was a conversation that Sarah and I had with the curator of the Jewish museum in Bridgetown, Barbados. As frequent readers of may know, in January of this year, we were fortunate to win a trip to Barbados, courtesy of the Max Kellerman show and ESPN Radio. On the Friday morning of our trip, we ventured into the capital (Bridgetown) to visit the Synagogue (built originally in the 1630's, it is the oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere). What we learned when we got to Bridgetown was that the Barbadian Government had opened a Jewish Museum two weeks before in a building adjacent to the Jewish cemetery which stood in the same compound as the synagogue. When we completed the tour we spoke with the curator and I asked whether he was Jewish. He replied that he wasn't Jewish, before saying that "there used to be a time when you could tell who was Jewish [in Barbados] based on the last names like D'Souza." I found this odd, since D'Souza is not what I would consider a typical Jewish name. (When I returned to the US, I did some research and found that D'Souza was a historically significant Jewish family in Barbados).

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click here to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Max Kellerman's Monday Musings Vol XIX - Yankee lineups, Media and the Importance of Teaching by Review

Today's Max Kellerman and Brian Kenny show was baseball-centric (as it should be in July) although it did have its fair share of social commentary, as this thinking man's sports show usually does.

There was quite a bit of discussion about Yankee lineups and the possible ways to to keep Jorge Posada in the game. In so doing Max and Brian discussed whether it made sense to use Molina at catcher (taking advantage of his gun of an arm) or to play Posada at catcher (capitalizing on his bat). The interesting wrinkle was that the decision whether to DH Posada or let him catch had ramifications for the outfield as it would impact on whether Melky Cabrera or future HOF Brett Gardner would be patrolling the outfield. Later in the day the Yankees announced that Posada was being placed on the disabled list, thus mooting the discussion. Still, the discussion was interesting at the time.

The show also featured a number of media related observations. Max said that Heath Ledger would win the Academy Award for his role in the recent Batman film. There was also a conversation about how Justin Timberlake "did an excellent job with the ESPYs." I do not recall who made the observation, and I did not watch the ESPYs so I really can't comment on the job that Justin Timberlake did as a host. Its odd to hear the name Justin Timberlake and sports in the same sentence, let alone to think that he did a good job hosting an awards show that relates to the past year in sports.

Another media observation that was right on the ball was the overuse of the word catalyst by the press. I don't think that this is a recent occurrence, but I wholeheartedly agree that the media tends to over dramatize an individual player's value and will pump him up as the "catalyst" that causes the team to perform.

Of course there was some Mets talk (as Max observed they are in first place so they should be discussed). Brian Kenny noted that since Jerry Manuel took over the Mets, they have an average of +1 run differential per game. Max and Brian split the credit for this, commending both Dan Warthen and Jerry Manuel on the jobs that they are doing.

In relation to Warthen, I think that Brian and Max correctly identified that Mike Pelfrey has improved since he started working with Warthen. However, they did not go far enough in assessing the gains made by the pitching staff since Rick Peterson's "ten minutes" ended. Yes, Mike Pelfrey has improved -- I heard an interview with him on 660 AM where he specifically credited Warthen and his attitude towards pitching. Pelfrey was careful not to disparage Peterson, even when asked questions that were set up to evoke a negative response. But what was not discussed by Brian and Max is the impact on the bullpen since Warthen became the pitching coach. During the last month or so: Heilman has made 18 appearances giving up earned runs in only 3 games and not yielding a home run; Scott Schoenweis' has made 12 appearances giving up earned runs in only one game; Joe Smith has made 12 appearances and only gave up earned runs and home runs in two games; while Duaner Sanchez has made 15 appearances during that time span, giving up earned runs in only one game and no HRs. While Pelfrey has certainly improved under Warthen's tutelage, the bullpen's renaissance since Peterson was let go just cannot be ignored.

The observations about Jerry Manuel also merit mention, both for the insights by Max Kellerman and Brian Kenny into the way that Jerry conducts himself with the team as well as the way that these thoughts are grounded in Torah though. (In my opinion, every Kellerman show has an element of Torah thought, but like my posts in general, that is just my opinion).

In discussing Jerry Manuel's approach to managing the team, it was observed by Max Kellerman and Brian Kenny that Manuel is a teacher who sits down with the players both before and after the game. In so doing Manuel both teaches the player how to excel and then later reviews with the player what worked and did not work. Not surprisingly, Max's reference to the concept of the need to review in order to cement one's knowledge is a cornerstone of Jewish thought. Indeed, the Gemara in Chagiga 9b talks about the significance of reviewing things that were learned because the level of retention increases from merely reviewing the concept one more time. There are also myriad stories in the Talmud of students who reviewed concepts forty times or implored their teachers to review the concepts forty times or more, so that they would be able to retain their knowledge. (Examples include Keusbos 22b where Rav reviewed a concept 40 times; Kesubos 50a where Rav Yosef reviewed something forty times and thereafter it was like he had it in his pocket and Pesachim 72a and Berachos 28a where matters were reviewed forty times to assure retention).

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click here to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunday Night Suds - Blue Moon Belgian White Ale

Tonight's Sunday Night Suds beer review looks at Blue Moon Belgian White Ale. I had recently been asked by a number of friends whether I drink the regular Blue Moon Ale, since I have now reviewed nearly all the seasonal varieties, but never reviewed the granddaddy of the family - Blue Moon Belgian White Ale.

With this in the back of my head, I started to wonder which beer I could review tonight. Since today was a Jewish fast day, I needed a beer that would go with a light dairy meal that we traditionally have after the fast. Although as a younger man I had broken fasts on meat dishes, I have found that as I have gotten older that maybe my mom was right (yes, I know, moms are always right) that its better to have dairy after a day without food. Of course, this might be genetics talking...

Having these two thoughts in my somewhat clouded brain (you try walking around NYC in 90 degree heat without water) I decided that I would end my fast this evening on Blue Moon Belgian White Ale and drink it with my wife's excellent tuna pasta salad. Of course, I did get some looks at the 7-11 as I was buying beer and the other frum people were buying Entenmann's, but to each their own.

Blue Moon Belgian White is a traditional Witbier (as opposed to an American style wheat beer). It is cloudy and somewhat orangy in color. Years ago, Blue Moon ran an ad campaign that you should drink the Blue Moon Belgian White Ale with a wedge of orange, but the flavors never worked for me. To be honest, the flavor did not work with my wife's tuna pasta salad either, but I never claimed that all my food combo pairings would work out.

Bottom line - Blue Moon Belgian White Ale is a good beer with a somewhat sweetish flavor and very little aftertaste. It goes well on its own in a glass after a hard day's work or as a drink with spicy chicken or meat dishes. It also goes well with a hearty baked fish dishes. But litza'aree, I just can't recommend pairing it with tuna pasta salad (or any salads for that matter).

Blue Moon Belgian White Ale (like all Coors products that I am aware of) is under the Kosher Supervision of the Orthodox Union. To see what the experts on Beer Advocate think about the Belgian White Ale, please follow this link -

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

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click here to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Pinchas

Normally, the Thursday night parsha post on this blog slot contains a thought said over by R' Frand in his satellite shiur. Since the shiur is now on hiatus through Elul, I will be substituting with divrei torah found in other sources. As always, if the p'shat appears to be incorrect, it is a result of my efforts to convey the thought that I found in the sefer.

The second pasuk of Parsha Pinchas (25:11) contains the statement that Pinchas has turned back Hashem's anger (Haysheev es chamasi). The Vilna Gaon (as brought down in the sefer Peninim M'Shulchan HaGra) has an interesting take on the use of the word Haysheev. He asks, what exactly did Pinchas return or turn back, since the term L'hashiv usually implies the return of something, i.e. the mitzva of hashavas aveidah - returning lost objects.

The Gaon answers the question by looking at the word Chamasi. The word itself is spelled Ches, Mem, Suf, Yud. The Gaon notes that in the word Machatsis the Tzadik is in the middle, surrounded by a Ches and a Yud, together making the word Chai (life). On the outside is a Mem and a Suf, which form the word Mes (death). By giving the machatsis hashekel to the mishkan, the donor surrounds himself with life and keeps death apart on the outside.

In the story that plays out at the end of Balak, Pinchas takes his life in his own hands to challenge Zimri (as taught in the Gemara in Sanhedrin 82a-b). Since Pinchas selflessly acted for the glory of Hashem, Hashem tells Pinchas that he has "turned back my anger" (Chamasi) which contains the letters Mem and Suf together = Mes (death) with life separated on the outside. Had Pinchas not acted and the anger still existed, it could have meant death for many present. Since Pinchas did act, the anger was turned around and the Mem and Suf were no longer together.

The sefer also makes reference to the concept that righteous people after death are considered alive, while evil people are considered dead, even though they still walk this earth. The Gaon explains that after a tzaddik passes away, his body is dead on the outside, while his soul lives on. Meanwhile the evil person, while technically alive in body, is dead in spirit as a result of his evil acts.

The Gaon links this concept to the word Chamasi - that it contains death on the inside, even though life still appears to exist on the outside. This life is hardly sustainable as the letters Ches and Yud are separated by the Mes in the middle. By acting in the manner that he did, Pinchas' atoned for the Jewish people and reversed the word Chamsi. In Hebrew, the word for live, healthy skin is Michyas spelled Mem, Ches, Yud and Suf. As a result of Pinchas' actions the Chamasi was averted and Michyas was returned.

A final thought involving a play on the letters in a word in 25:11 can be found in the sefer Pituchei Chosam from Rabbeinu Yaakov. The letters of the word Pinchas can be rearranged to spell the words Panai Chas. It is taught in the zohar that one who sins (and certainly one who sins by way of an immoral relationship) is not concerned with Hashem's honor. Zimri's public act with Cozbi is clear evidence that he was unconcerned about Hashem's honor. Since Pinchas put his life in danger by attacking Zimri, Hashem hints to Moshe in 25:11 that Pinchas has become concerned about Hashem's dignity (Panai Chas), therefore Hashem says two things: (1) His anger has been turned back, and (2) Hashem says that He will show concern for Pinchas to protect Pinchas from the angel of death. This second promise can be seen in the 25:12 where Hashem says "therefore (Moshe) publicly say that Hashem is giving Pinchas Briti Shalom" a covenant that he will have protection from the angel of death.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click here to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wednesday's Weird But True Legal Cases - Vol XIX

This Wednesday's weird (but true) legal case was inspired by a speech given by R' Frand last week that involved a Canadian family who was villanized in the press for resisting a hospital's urge to discontinue life supporting treatment. It is also inspired by the actions of Jim Valvano and his Jimmy V foundation that was recognized by ESPN today in its annual Jimmy V fundraiser with its motto - don't give up, don't ever give up.

In the matter of In re Gianelli, 15 Misc.3d 565 (Sup. Ct. Nass. Cty 2007), the court reviewed an application filed by a hospital to continue treating a child with a debilitating disease, despite his parents wishes to the contrary.

In Gianelli, the court examined a matter in which a fourteen year old boy was suffering through Hunter Syndrome, a genetic disorder which causes defects in bone, cartilage and connective tissue as well as valve insufficiency in the aortic and mitral valves. The aortic and mitral deficiencies eventually prove fatal (there is no known cure) and the doctor testified that the child would die within two years.

The court observed that DH (as he was referred to in the decision) "is generally not in pain, though he makes it known that he does not like to be suctioned. He experiences pain when he is moved because he is edematous. His connective tissue is filled with water, making him very tight. He is not on any pain medication due to the fleeting nature of the pain, which according to the testimony is felt when he is moved, washed or suctioned."

The child's nurse testified that DH:

is awake, responds to tactile stimulation, tracks and looks at cartoons and movies and tracks his parents when they visit him. She testified that his face brightens when he sees his parents, which in her mind indicates that he is happy to see them. She has observed that he is calm when watching videos and that if he watches videos after he is washed or suctioned his heart rate goes right down and he is relaxed and breathes more easily.

D's mother and father both testified "that they understood that removing the ventilator would hasten D's death, but felt that this was in his best interests to end his suffering. Ms. D testified that D has come to her in her dreams and has encouraged her to let him go and to accept her newborn daughter. D is always happy and at peace in her dreams."

Although to an outsider it might appear cruel that the parents wanted to remove DH's ventilator, the court was compassionate in describing the parents, stating:

There can be no doubt that Ms. D is a devoted mother and has taken extraordinary care of D. She worked closely with doctors and nutritionists as D's condition deteriorated and his ability to eat or drink was curtailed. She massaged D to give him comfort. There is no question that she and her husband want what is best for D. They are aware that his disease is progressive and that he is likely nearing the end of his life. Ms. D visits D every day in the hospital and was his primary caregiver until he was admitted.

When faced with DH's parents request to discontinue treatment, the hospital (following a lengthy review process detailed in the opinion) could not agree, thus presenting the legal quandry that Judge Murphy found herself in.

In discussing the social aspects, Judge Murphy noted that:

The use of artificial means to keep people alive has been a controversial topic, which has riveted and divided the nation. Sonny Von Bulow, Karen Ann Quinlan and Terri Schiavo became household names as the media extensively covered their tragic stories and families, friends, neighbors, advocates on both sides of the issue and elected officials shared their views. Defining what constitutes “artificial means” has also been the subject of heated debate. The courts have not resolved these issues in any global sense, often urging the legislature to act, and to a limited degree in New York, laws have been enacted that begin to address end-of-life decisions.

Following this discussion the court examined the law as it relates to this issue in earnerst, observing that:

The State decisions vary, with New York having one of the strictest standards. A person who is competent can refuse to accept medical treatment. A “clear and convincing” evidence standard must be satisfied in order to terminate artificial life supports for a now-incompetent patient based upon that patient's previously expressed wishes, while competent, not to be kept alive by artificial means. The
right to decline treatment is a personal one and cannot be exercised by a third party when the patient is unable to do so. The Court of Appeals has refused to make a judgment as to what is for another an unacceptable quality of life. No person or court should substitute its judgment as to what would be an acceptable quality of life for another. However, if it is shown by clear and convincing evidence that the patient, if competent, would have rejected nutrition and hydration by artificial means, the clearly expressed desires of the individual to die with dignity should be honored. “The evidence must be unequivocal when the decision to terminate life support is at issue."

The court then recited the four part test in NY for such determinations, stating:

In determining whether it is appropriate to exercise the State's parens patriae authority to protect those citizens unable to care for themselves, four compelling state interests must be weighed by the courts in making medical treatment decisions: (1) the preservation of life; (2) the prevention of suicide; (3) the protection of innocent third parties; and (4) the maintenance of the ethical integrity of the medical profession.

Ultimately, the court granted the hospital's application and continued the use of the ventilator, explaining that:

The parents, guardian ad litem, treating physicians and the hospital are not in agreement that discontinuing the ventilator is in D's best interests. Had they been, it is unlikely that this case would have necessitated judicial intervention. Contrary to the facts of the Matter of AB, where the child was unaware and completely lacking in brain function, the treating doctor and nurse both testified that D is aware and enjoys TV and videos. D recognizes his mother. This Court appreciates that young D has lived a very difficult life, suffering from a progressive life threatening and altering disease. It is, however, D's life to live and this Court will not consider or determine whether it is a life worth living from anyone's perspective other than D's.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click here to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Gittin 4

The first perek of mesechet Gittin devotes considerable discussion to the mechanism of the delivery of the get to the (soon to be former) wife. As taught in the first mishna, the operative words when making the transfer are that the get was written and signed by the witnesses before the person who has delivered the get to the wife.

Gittin 4 has two interesting points that I wanted to touch on. After having analyzed the mishna and compared it to R' Elazar and R' Meir, the gemara ultimately determines that the tanna kamma is really R' Yehuda. The gemara draws the conclusion by learning that if the get was written on a piece of live vegetation (like tree bark or plant leaf or stalk) R' Yehuda holds that the get is not valid unless it was both written and signed on the vegetation after it was disconnected from the earth.

Tosafos (d'h "Od") asks why the gemara needs to learn that the get was written and signed after the object was removed from the ground (there are other deyos that permit the get to be written while attached and then detached before execution). Tosafos answers that perhaps a person had ripped the plant out, written the get and then reinserted the plant in the ground for a long enough time for the plant's roots to reset and only then had the witnesses signed the get. Tosafos learns that even in this situation the get would be invalid as all actions must take place after the removal of the plant from the ground.

Following the completion of the process of identifying the tanna of the mishna, the gemara asks a question that I find myself asking from time to time - why didn't we just learn in the first place that R' Yehuda was the tanna of the mishna, rather than breaking down why it could not be R' Meir or R' Elazar. Unlike other circumstances where the answer might be D'rush v'kabel s'char, the gemara on Gittin 4a actually answers the question with the logic behind its actions. The gemara explains that we originally would have thought that it was R' Meir since we have a general principle of stam mishna R' Meir. Similarly, we would have though that it could be R' Elazar since we have a general principle that the halacha follows R' Elazar in relation to the laws of gittin (Tosafos d'h "D'Kayma" adds that this principle applies to all cases involving kiyum shtaros). We therefore needed to first attempt to attribute the mishna to R' Meir or R' Elazar before moving on to R' Yehuda.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click here to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Max Kellerman's Monday Musings Vol XVIII - Of Murcer, Mets and Maturity

Today's Max Kellerman and Brian Kenny show was notable for its solemnity and maturity. This is not to say that the show is usually sophomoric, but there was a seriousness that is not usually found on sports talk radio shows.

The most serious topic was that of the untimely passing of Bobby Murcer. Growing up a Met fan, my only memories of Bobby Murcer were seeing his likeness on my baseball cards and reviewing his stats in The Sporting News. Brian and Max had numerous stories about him which reflected both his career as a player and broadcaster. One particular story that hit home with me was the story that Brian Kenny told about being invited by Bobby M to watch a Yankee game with him. Brian related then when he was 38 (the same age I am now) Bobby said "young man come in and watch the game with me." He related talking strategy with Bobby and positional plays and players. He also used an expression that I am not reproducing correctly, but the gist was that when he replays the greatest moments of his life, this would be one of them.

There was plenty of Met discussion, including a conversation with David Wright. David was able to dodge some of the more pointed questions and talked about how much he likes the team ("they are a great group of guys and we can win together"). A surprising moment was when Max said that he would lead with a discussion about the Mets because they were winners this weekend. Hey, you just can't argue with nine in a row. Still when a caller asking about what the Mets need to get on the back pages (which papers does he read?) Max and Brian started talking about dynasties and such.

An interesting point related to the maturity of Mike Pelfrey. Max observed that sometimes players need to mature before they hit their stride. He made a good point that when Pelfrey broke in as a 21 year old he was much younger than the other players, but now that he has matured, his performance has refined.

Of course, this concept has its roots in Torah thought as well. We know that a person is not responsible for his/her actions, both positive and negatively, until the person reaches the age of maturity (bar or bat mitzva). To this end, a person who is under age cannot gift objects to another (the transaction is void) and is not subject to heavenly punishment for his misdeeds.

I recently read a story about the Steipler Rav (O"h) that underscores this point. The Steipler was seen entering a bar mitzva celebration and speaking with the bar mitzva boy. No one present at the hall knew that there was a connection between this distinguished Rabbi and the family. Additionally, the conversation was a private one solely involving the boy and the Steipler.

It was later learned that a number of years prior, the boy had entered the Steipler's shul on Yom Kippur, carrying a large book. The Steipler approached the boy and gently chided him, saying that Yom Kippur was a day for praying, not a day to be studying Torah from a scholarly text. The boy then showed the Steipler that the book was in reality a large machzor - the traditional prayer book for Yom Kippur.

Although the Steipler Rav had apologized to the boy that very day for suspecting him of acting outside the solemnity of the Yom Kippur day, he was still concerned that he could not receive true mechila (forgiveness) from the boy, because the child was not yet thirteen at the time. Having learned that the child was celebrating his bar mitzva, the Steipler made a beeline for the celebration so that he could obtain proper forgiveness from the boy, now that he had matured and was capable of granting mechila as an adult.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click here to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sunday Night Suds - Redhook Blonde Ale

Tonight's Sunday Night Suds beer review examines the wonderful, but rare, Redhook Blonde Ale. As you may recall from prior Sunday Night Suds posts (3/30/08 and 5/13/08)), Redhook is a bi coastal brewery that produces beer in New Hampshire and Washington State. Although this craft brewery's home markets are not heavily dominated by the kosher consumer, they have chosen to obtain OU certification for all of their products. Having tried all four of their brews that are currently on the market, I have only one thing to say - Thank You!

I first tried Blonde Ale when I saw it at Thrifty Beverage Center on Jamaica Avenue (just over the Cross Island Parkway in Queens). I brought home a sixer and shared some with Yehuda F who begged me to get more. I bought all that they had, but it was only three six packs and that was eighteen months ago.

Then last Friday, I was fortunate to have my youngest daughter throw up into my wife's hand. Let me explain. We were driving to Camp M for the weekend to visit my oldest daughter and all of a sudden my youngest starts tossing her cookies. We were driving on St. Rte. 206 at the time about two miles outside of Walton, NY. Since there was nowhere to stop, my aishes chayil (literally translated as woman of valor, but more colloquially expressed as my angel of a wife) starts catching the "cookies" in her hand. Well, we pull into Walton and stop at a combination gas station supermarket and I run in to get wipes. How could I ignore the sign that says that they have "the largest walk in beer cooler in the area"? I grab the wipes and wander into the cooler where I see a 12 pack of mixed Redhook brews. Of course, it was min shamayim (heaven sent). So I bought the box of Redhook and the story has a happy, if not smelly ending.

Redhook is the palest of ales. It has a dark yellow color and a malty flavor that finishes very smooth. It is a great summer beer and matches well with almost every food. I almost think that the Heineken man would like it, but I can never find it when he is around...

Redhook Blonde is under the Kosher Supervision of the Orthodox Union as are all all beers that I have seen produced by Redhook. For the experts' take on the Blonde Ale please click here

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

Post script - as I indicated in my Thursday post, R' Frand gave shiur on why beer is permitted. In so doing he did not spend time on the brewing process (other than to confirm that beer is usually made from the four ingredients and as such a hecksher is not vital). He did spend some time attacking the question of why beer is not under the rubric of bishul a'cum if the brewing process involves cooking. The short answer is that under most achronim - since it is not oleh al shulchan m'lachim (served on a King's table) and the brocha (blessing) is shehakol (due to the fact that grain is m'vatel by the liquid), we do not require bishul yisrael. The shiur itself was of course far more comprehensive. Anyone seeking more information can e-mail me at and I will try to provide as much information as I can.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click here to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Balak

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.

In Balak 22:12, Hashem tells Bilaam not to go with Balak, using the following verbiage "Don't go with them, don't curse the nation, for it is blessed." Rashi on this pasuk fills in the gaps in the sentence and explains that there was an ongoing conversation:

Hashem: Don't go with them to curse the Jews.
Bilaam: OK, then I will curse them where I am now.
Hashem: Don't curse the Jews.
Bilaam: OK, then I will bless them.
Hashem: They are already blessed.

Rashi completes his illumination of the conversation between Hashem and Bilaam with the statement that a person should say to a bee, I do not want your honey and I do not want your sting.

The conversation described by Rashi is quite odd. Why would Bilaam make a complete 180 degree turn and decide that he wanted to bless the Jews, right after being prepared to curse them?

R' Frand answered the question by referring to the Shemen Hatov who mentions the following Midrash: at the end of the parsha, Bilaam comes to Balak and says, if you want to hurt the Jews do as I instruct. It is known that the G-d of the Jews hates licentiousness. Send out your women and the Jews will become involved with them, at this point G-d will curse the Jews.

The end of the parsha bears out Bilaam's beliefs, but the question needs to be asked - if the Jews did not stray with Egyptian women during their time in slavery in Egypt, why did they do so with the women of Midyan? Furthermore, how did Bilaam know that they would stray?

R' Frand answered that Bilaam knew that as a result of his blessing (Ma Tovu Ohalecha) the Jews would be vulnerable to the Midyanite women. R' Frand prefaced this with a statement that when a person receives a blessing, he needs to carefully examine the person giving the blessing to be certain that the person is giving the blessing with a full heart. When Bilaam blessed the Jews with Ma Tovu, the gemara teaches us that Bilaam looked at how the Jews' tents were facing away from each other, so that no one would be gazing on another's spouse. Bilaam then gave the blessing where he praised the Jews for their tzinius, knowing that it would effect them. Upon hearing Bilaam's brocha, some Jews became overconfident in their sense of modesty and (to use one of my father's terms) "believed their own press clippings." Because these Jews believed that their sense of modesty was so powerful that they could not possibly be effected by the lure of arayos, they became overconfident and thus were vulnerable to the wiles of the women of Midyan. It was for this specific purpose that Hashem sought to dissuade Bilaam from blessing the Jews, because when the blessing is coming from this sort of person, you should neither desire their honey or sting.

Ed. Note - For those familiar with R' Frand's shiurim, the first forty or so minutes are a halachic discussion, while the last segment focuses on parsha. This evening, the halacha portion discussed why beer was kosher. As this topic is near and dear to me, I would like to summarize some of the shiur. However, as the format of this blog is parsha on Thursdays, I will defer the discussion to Sunday when the post focuses on beer.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click here to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wednesday's Weird But True Legal Cases - Vol XVIII

Tonight's weird (but true) legal case examines what happens when the District Attorney cuts corners in an effort to prosecute a "knock off" artist - someone who sells copies of popular CDs or DVDs that just don't quite look like the original.

In People v. Jobe, 2008 NY Slip Op 51346 (Crim. Ct. Kings Cty 2008), the court examined a matter in which the defendant was charged with Trademark Counterfeiting in the Third Degree (PL § 165.71), a class A misdemeanor. The criminal complaint filed by the Kins County District Attorney's Office alleged that (as informed by Detective Andre Smith) a counterfeit Compact Disc was purchased from the defendant. The complaint further alleged that the Informant "recovered 33 music DVD's, 600 counterfeit CD's and 171 pirated CD's bearing various names such as G-Unit, 50 Cent, BMG and Def Jam from inside of the above mentioned location."

In relation the description of the items seized, the complaint stated that the Deponent was "informed by the supporting deposition of William Ortiz that the above mentioned DVD's and CD's were printed with blurry inserts, the CD's were recorded on CD-R recordable discs, displayed in improper CD jewel case and plastic wrap, had inferior insert paper quality and different legitmate [sic] graphics. " Furthermore the complaint alleged that as a result of the Ortiz deposition the "DVD's listed unfamaliar [sic] manufacturing names, did not disclose copyright information, had inferior quality print inserts and the DVD's were recorded on DVD-R discs."

In addition to the Complaint, the DA served and filed a corroborating affidavit signed by Detective Smith, and a number of supporting depositions signed by William S. Ortiz, who is listed on them as "Investigative Consultant" for the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The court noted that these depositions state that "the DVDs and CDs seized are counterfeit based on the same reasons identified in the Complaint, such as the use of different jewel cases and blurriness of the paper labels or inserts."

In moving to dismiss the criminal complaint, defense counsel argued that the complaint did not recite all the necessary allegations because it failed "to establish either that the items seized contained marks substantially similar to genuine trademarks, or that these trademarks were registered and in use."

In examining cases such as this one, the first rule for a Judge is to look at the statute and see what the elements are that the DA must allege in order for the complaint to survive. In the instant matter the Judge did just that, stating:

A person is guilty of trademark counterfeiting under PL § 165.71, when "[w]ith intent to deceive or defraud some other person or with the intent to evade a lawful restriction on the sale, resale, offering for sale or distribution of goods, he or she manufactures, distributes, sells or offers for sale goods which bear a counterfeit trademark."

The court also noted that:
PL § 165.71, like the other statutes in this section, is governed by definitions based on Federal Trademark law, and which are set out in PL § 165.70. William C.Donnino, 1998 Practice Commentaries, McKinney's Cons.Laws of NY PL § 165.71. Under PL § 165.70, a trademark is defined as: (a) any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof adopted and used by a person to identify goods made by a person and which distinguish them from those manufactured or sold by others which is in use and which is registered, filed or recorded under the laws of this state or of any other state or is registered in the principal register of the United States patent and trademark office. [emphasis added]. The term "counterfeit trademark" is defined under PL § 165.71(2) as "a spurious trademark or an imitation of a trademark that is (a) used in connection with trafficking in goods; and (b) used in connection with the sale, offering for sale or distribution of goods that are identical with or substantially indistinguishable from a trademark as defined in subdivision one of this section."
Following this recital, the court applied the standard to the complaint, stating that:

In order to sustain a count of trademark counterfeiture under these statutes, a Complaint must therefore establish that the goods allegedly possessed for sale were substantially similar to a trademark that is both registered and in use. People v. Cheng, 4 Misc 3d at 379 ("a sufficient accusatory instrument charging Trademark Counterfeiting in the Third Degree must ... identify and distinguish the characteristics of the genuine and counterfeit trademarks ... [and] state that the trademark is registered and in use"); People v. Niang, 160 Misc 2d 500, 609 NYS2d 1017 (Crim. Ct. NY Co. 1994) ("trademark counterfeiting cannot be established in the absence of proof that the offending mark was ... substantially indistinguishable from a trademark which is in use and registered").

As discussed above, the criminal complaint supplied by the DA only alleged that the recordings seized were of poor quality, and were "bearing various names such as "G-Unit, 50 Cent, BMG and Def Jam." Since the DA had skipped steps in his rush to prosecute, the Judge dismissed the complaint, explaining that:

The Complaint therefore lacks several necessary elements of the crime. First, as Defendant correctly notes, although the Complaint several times concludes that the recordings were "pirated" and "counterfeit," it is devoid of allegations that either the original or the copies seized from Defendant even bore trademarks. Second, the Complaint necessarily fails to allege that any trademarks were both registered and in use. Finally, the Complaint does not allege that any trademarks on the pirated goods were substantially similar or indistinguishable from the registered marks. Without these necessary allegations, the Complaint merely establishes that low quality counterfeit recordings, some of which bear the names of well-known artists, were recovered. These allegations are insufficient to establish PL § 165.71.

To see the full text of the court's opinion, click here .

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click here to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Sotah 45

Sotah 45 continues the discussion of the process of "eglah arufa" - the process by which a city atones for the death of a person who is found killed in proximity to the city. There are a number of interesting points that came up in today's daf that I would like to discuss:

On Sotah 45b, the mishna states that although the measuring is performed to determine which city (that has a beis din) is closest to the body, the city of Jerusalem is not taken into the equation. The gemara explains that the reason that Jerusalem is exempt is that the pasuk discussing eglah arufa uses the word "L'rishta" - to inherit. Since the city of Jerusalem (according to this de'ah) was not the property of any particular tribe (and thus not subject to familial inheritance rules), it is also not to be considered when measuring for proximity purposes. The problem with this is that other sources indicate that Jerusalem was in Yehuda's nachala. It can be suggested that according to those sources, Jerusalem might be factored into the measurement.

On the topic of measuring, the gemara on Sotah 45a learns from the word "umad'du" that even if it is clear cut which city is closest in proximity to the body, the measurement is still performed as there is a mitzva to be involved in the actual measuring.

Within the context of the discussion of eglah arufa, there is a sidebar to review the rules of shichicha. [This is one of my father's favorite trivia questions - which mitzva cannot be fulfilled if it is intentionally performed - shichicha]. Within this discussion, the gemara towards the bottom of Sotah 45a talks about the standing grain that is left (accidentally) in the field. In so doing, the gemara present two different opinions (R' Yehuda and the Chachamim) as to why the standing grain is subject to shichicha. As was pointed out by R' Ephraim G. in our chabura this evening - the concept that standing grain is subject to shichicha is counter intuitive, as one would expect that this would fall within leket, not shichicha.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click here to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Max Kellerman's Monday Musings Vol XVII - Yankee Homerism and Responses to Criticism

Today's Max Kellerman show (Brian Kenny is still on vacation until July 9) was an unabashed homage to everything Yankee, although in my opinion things were taken a little bit to the extreme.

The show started with discussion as to why Robinson Cano is better than Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler (although both have batting averages more than sixty points higher and OPS' of two to three hundred points higher than Cano). Max then attempted to modify his statement by saying that Cano's All Star years were better than the years that Pedroia and Kinsler are putting up, but that also lacked objectivity as Kinsler is only five HRs shy of Cano's career season high and has more SBs this season then Cano has for his career.

The discussion then continued as to why Jason Varitek is undeserving of an all star appearance (true) and is "terrible in all facets of the game" and is the "worst catcher in the AL" (exaggerations) . While Varitek is having a poor year, he is tied for third in HRs and has a .300 OBP. Would I rank him as above average, definitely not. Would he be picked last out of all AL catchers? Only if the others who were picking hated the Red Sox.

Things started to get out of hand when Max got defensive about the Yankee farm system. When a discussion arose about what the Yankee farm system (vs other teams) has developed lately, he started to run off names of players that the Yankees have developed as a proof that they are "the best" at producing home grown talent. As part of the discussion, Max rattled off: Jeter, Cabrera, Cano, Posada, Brett Gardner (position players); Wang, Pettite, Rivera, Jose Veras, Edward Ramirez and David Robinson (pitchers).

The problem was that while some of the players are stars, others may turn out to be flashes in the pan, while some are not even original Yankees. Yes, Jeter and Posada are stars and Cano and Cabrera have to this point been above average players. But Brett Gardner? Who knows if he will be another Kevin Maas. To borrow a line from the Tuna, let's not put him in Cooperstown just yet (especially since he's hitting .143 with the Yankees and has never hit above .300 in any minor league season).

The discussion about pitching was also less than objective. While Wang, Rivera and Pettite have had distinguished careers, who is to say that any current young Yankee pitcher will even be in the majors in two years. And while he rattled off Edward Ramirez and Jose Veras as examples of Yankee farm developed talent, both of them came out of other organizations (Veras with TB and Texas, Ramirez with the Angels).

An interesting point made by Max was that when critiqued, players respond with cliche after cliche and "no one ever responds honestly in sports." In this regard, Max was right on the money, both in sports and in life. Rarely do we hear a manager say that his team is free falling without a prayer of stopping a collapse, even though everyone in the country knows it to be true. Similarly, players will try to hold on and never hang up their spikes (Brett Favre anyone?) even when it is clear that it is time to move on.

In this regard Max Kellerman's point is firmly grounded in Torah thought. The Torah teaches the mitzva of tochacha - of rebuking others when the situation demands it. We also see the value of receiving tochacha. From a logical standpoint, tochacha (when given honestly) can cause the recipient to improve his deeds and outlook. A person will attempt to justify his actions and will fail to view things objectively because he is too close to the situation. However, if he were to step back and view the situation from the objective standpoint of another, he might have different views. In this capacity, the Torah explains that one who accepts tochacha will be blessed as it seen from Medrash Rabba on Devarim 1:9, that Hashem said to Moshe, "Since the Jewish people accepted the tochacha, you must bless them. Immediately Moshe Rabbeinu blessed them. All who accept tochacha merit blessings."

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click here to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sunday Night Suds - Sam Adams Summer Ale

This Sunday Night Suds beer review takes on a seasonal tone by looking at the Boston Beer Company's (aka Sam Adams) summer brew - Summer Ale. (If its July 4th weekend, how can you go wrong with a Summer Ale that bears the term "brewer patriot" on the label).

Samuel Adams burst on the scene in 1984, when Jim Koch decided that he wanted to open a quality microbrewery that would still be able to compete with the big boys. Years before I tasted my first Sam Adams, I was already seeing folksy commercials where he would talk about his desire to make a better quality beer. Sure enough, when my brother who was living in Pawtucket, RI made a shalom zachor for his son, I went to the store looking specifically to buy Sam Adams. I was not yet ready for the bold taste of the Sam Adams Lagers and Ales (it was early in my beer development stage when "ice beers" were my brews of choice), but everyone else at the shalom zachor really enjoyed them.

The interesting thing about Samuel Adams is that although many (but not all) of their brews are under the Star-K, they only print the Star-K on the labels of some of their beers. Compounding the problem is that the Star-K does not post the LOC for Sam Adams on their website. As such, in order to verify that the variety of Sam Adams that you are drinking is under Star-K supervision you need to do one of three things: (1) e-mail the Star-K and ask them whether the style that you have purchased or are interested in purchasing is under supervision (or even get them to email a copy of the LOC, although this is easier said then done); (2) check the CRC for a list of those Sam Adams beers that the CRC knows to be under the Star-K, or (3) be lucky enough to have purchased or seen a sixer in the store that has labels bearing the Star-K. There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to why they only print the Star-K on some of the labels of their beers that are under supervision.

Samuel Adams Summer Ale is an American Wheat Ale that is flavored with lemon zest and grains of paradise. From my wife (the expert chef) I know what lemon zest is (think small pieces of lemon peel) , but I was clueless as to what grains of paradise were (the Samuel Adams website indicates that it is a rare African pepper that was first used as a brewing spice in the 13th century). The beer itself is quite light and pairs well with fish, pastas and chicken. This is not to say that it wont wash down a summer BBQ, its just that you will not taste the flavor of the beer if you drink it with burgers or steaks. Still, it is one of my summer favorites.

For the experts' take on the Summer Ale, please click here As always, please remember to drink responsibly and to never waste good beer unless there is no designated driver.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click here to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Chukas

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.

Parshas Chukas contains a bizarre complaint by the Jewish people and a punishment that seems unconnected to the crime. In Chukas 21:5, the Jews complain about beong taken out of Egypt, saying to Moshe, "why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness, as there is no food or water and our soul is at is limit with the unsubstantial food." In response to the complaint, Hashem sends snakes out to bite the Jews and many Jews died.

The entire sequence of events seems illogical. It is known that the manna that the Jews ate in the desert tasted like whatever the consumer wanted it to be. I can recall learning as a child in day school that if a person wanted a steak, the manna would taste like steak, if a different person wanted ice cream, it would taste like ice cream. Additionally, in Parshas B'shalach the manna's taste is described as like a wafer in honey. So why did the Jews complain? And furthermore, although the Jews were wrong in complaining, why were snakes the vehicle for their punishment?

The Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel explains the rationale for the snakes, as Hashem said to the Jewish people, I took you out of Egypt and gave you the manna and you complain. Meanwhile, the snake that spends its days eating dust has no complaints. Therefore, the complainers should be bitten by the one that does not complain.

But how does this answer the questions?

R'Frand quoted the Alshich who explained that the reason that the Jews complained about the manna had nothing to do with its taste. Instead, the Jews were unhappy that every day they had to go and collect it, while every night they worried whether it would fall again the next day. They would have preferred receiving the manna on a weekly or monthly basis, as individuals prefer to be paid on a schedule and not to have to ask for their paycheck daily.

R' Frand then mentioned a medrash that compare the Jews/manna to a King who gave his son a year's allowance in advance. During the following year, the son did not visit with the King. Hashem did not want the Jews to be in that position where he would have no contact with them for an entire year. As such he sent the manna on a daily basis (with the exception of the Sabbath) so that he would have constant contact with them.

R' Frand (I believe quoting the Yalkut Yehuda) explained that this was the reason that the snake was sent as a punishment. The Torah writes in Parshas Bereishis that Adam, Eve and the snake were all punished differently. Adam was punished with the requirement that he must sweat in order to eat. Eve was punished with the pains of childbirth. The snake was punished that it must crawl on its belly and eat dust all day. But how is this a curse if the snake has all of its nutritional requirement met without effort? R' Frand answered that the snake was punished in a way much more severe than Adam and Eve. While Adam had to work for his food, he has the ability to connect with Hashem and ask for (and receive) help in his efforts. Eve does have to go through childbirth, but can petition Hashem for help with the process of birth, as well as raising the child.

The snake has no such ability to obtain help. While the snake's material needs are met, it has no ability to ask for help or to rise above the nature that it is condemned to. Instead, the snake wanders the Earth, eating dust. By utilizing the snake as a punishment for the Jews, Hashem is saying to the Jews, you don't want to be like this snake, wandering the Earth with no hope of salvation. Instead, you should appreciate your connection with Hashem and use it as a means to draw closer to Him.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click here to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Wednesday's Weird Legal Cases - Vol XVII

In honor of yesterday's commencement of the NHL free agency period, tonight's weird (but true) legal case involves an NHL player who challenged a tax levy assessed by New York State.

In Clark v. New York State Tax Commission, 86 A.D.2d 691, 446 N.Y.S.2d 518 (3rd Dept. 1982) the Appellate Division, Third Department examined a matter in which the New York State Commission had demanded that a player who never resided in New York and only played a handful of games for a minor league club in New York pay a percentage of his signing bonus as a tax penalty.

In the factual portion of the decision, Third Department explained that following Gordon Clark's completion of his college hockey career in New Hampshire, he was signed by the Boston Bruins. His contract had three elements: 1) “Addendum A” providing for a $20,000 “signing bonus” upon execution of the contract; 2) “Addendum B” providing for “performance bonuses” and (3) the main body of the document setting forth, among other things, the salary Clark was to receive for each playing season of the contract.

Following his signing of the contract in 1974, Clark went to training camp with the Bruins and then was assigned to the Rochester Americans where he played 31 games. For the tax year 1974, Clark filed a NY State non-resident tax return in which he reported as "New York source income" his salary for the 31 games, but not his signing bonus. The Tax Commission then Clark of a tax deficiency in the amount of $725.40 for 1974 for failure to report the $20,000 “signing bonus” as “New York source income”. After Clark filed a petition for redetermination and had a “small claims” hearing, the Commission held the $20,000 to be “New York source income” and thus taxable under NY Law. The Tax Commission had earlier ruled that petitioner's 1974 salary from the Rochester Americans was properly allocated as “New York source income” on a 22/31 basis since only 22 of the 31 games played were played within NY.

On appeal, the Appellate Division rejected the finding of the Tax Commission, explaining that:

The determination of the Tax Commission finding the $20,000 “signing bonus” to be “derived from New York sources” and “allocable as New York source income” in the same manner as petitioner's salary income is in error and should be annulled. Both petitioner and the Boston Bruins were nonresidents of New York State at the time of execution of the contract and thereafter. The uncontradicted testimony at the hearing revealed that the standard type of “signing bonus” provided in the contract is clearly given in consideration of the athlete giving up his amateur and free agent status and for agreeing to be the exclusive property of the major league club (and/or its minor league affiliates) executing the contract. The said “signing bonus” is payable separately from the salary and any other compensation terms under the contract and is nonrefundable. The payment of the “signing bonus” is not conditional upon the signee playing any games for the club or even making the team. Thus, the receipt of the “signing bonus” of $20,000 on May 16, 1974 was not connected with the subsequent performance of the contract in New York State in the fall of 1974. Therefore, it was improperly ruled to be “New York source income”.
If you want to see the stats for Gordie Clark's illustrious career before he became an assistant coach for the NY Icelanders, click here.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click here to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!