Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday Night Suds - Laker Red

This week's Sunday Night Suds Beer Review looks at Laker Red. What kind of beer is red you might ask? Is it an ale or a lager, or perhaps a stout or a porter? The good folks at the Brick Brewing Company don't let on which style the "Red" beer is, although they do have a rather annoying jingle ("Mak'er a Laker, It's a buck a beer") on their website that I can't get out of my head. To hear it, click on the following link, but be forewarned, it sticks in your mind. I wind up singing it to Sarah at least three or four times a day.

So why review a Canadian beer that brands itself as "a buck a beer?" Initially, I have to admit that I was interested because the COR (the Kashruth Council of Canada) indicated that many beers brewed by the Brick Brewery of Waterloo, Ontario are under their hashgacha. I then tried mightily to find it at many of the more comprehensive beer stores in NY, but with no success. This only raised my curiosity.

Last week we took the kids to Niagara Falls for a few days. Of course, now that I was in Canada, I had to try to score some Laker. So after a full day at the Falls, we took the kids out in the car to Sobey's (the local supermarket chain) to try to supplement what we had brought on the trip. I also went looking for Laker so that I could have a cold one with my daf yomi later that evening. I was sadly disappointed when I learned that beer in Canada is only sold in beer stores. Oddly, all the beer stores are called just that, "Beer Store." And the ones in Niagara closed at 9 PM. Well, the next day before we left the area, we went to the beer store and I found four styles from the COR list of approved beers. (To see the COR list, please click here

The Laker Red is just that, Red. Its in the lager family (although the experts at BA call it an ale, the Laker website describes it as a lager, a sentiment I concur with), and has a little foam and a soft red color. There is no heavy aftertaste and actually not a very strong flavor after the initial sip. The beer advocates who have reviewed it have not been kind, but I found that its a refreshing pour after a long day driving in the car. Just make sure to chill it and serve it in a glass.

Laker Red is certified kosher by the Kashruth Council of Canada. For the experts' take on Laker Red 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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Monday, August 25, 2008

Max Kellerman's Monday Musings Vol XXIV - Of realism, baseball and separation

Today's Max Kellerman and Brian Kenny show was yet another example of the fusion of sports talk and social commentary which is the Kellerman and Kenny show.

Before getting to sports, there was an interesting call to the show that I heard while I was on my way back from court. The caller said to Max that Max frequently says "I could make the argument." The caller then said that although you could make an argument, that does not mean that you should. Max then commented that "just because a position is defensible, doesn't make it right." It fell in line with another call that came in Friday when the Yankees were at their season's nadir. When a Yankee fan told Max that he takes it too far with Yankee puffery, Max responded that people listen to a sports show because they want hope and that if he was negative all the time people would not listen. The two comments showed that Max has the capacity for intellectual honesty. In fairness though, you can usually tell when Max is knowingly taking things too far to prove his point.

There was also an interesting observation about Michael Strahan. After the news broke that Osi Umenyora was finished for the season, a story began percolating about Strahan possibly coming out of retirement to fill the void at defensive end for the New York Giants. Then a comment was attributed to Strahan that he would play for the Giants if they paid him $8 million and said nice things to him. Max and Brian said that they could not pay him $8 million (I guess that ESPN does not pay as well as I thought) but that they could give him kind words. Of course the kindest words (as noted by Max and Brian) are "eight million dollars."

There was also discussion about the Mets continued bullpen woes. Max observed that Heilman, Feliciano, Smith and Sanchez are among the league leaders for appearances. He then absolved Smith and Feliciano from blame (they are situational pitchers in his eyes) and buried Sanchez and Heilman for not doing the job. Then Max had a suggestion - use Santana in the pen and let him pitch the last three innings every second or third day to ensure victory. [This was before the news broke that Maine was going on the DL]. Personally, I think that Max has the right idea, but I would use a different starter. The main problem for the Mets pen has been that when a pitcher comes in with runners on base, the batter usually makes contact. If the Mets were to use Oliver Perez in the role envisioned by Max, the problem would be diminished. Perez strikes out almost a batter an inning and walks one slightly less than every two innings. Santana is far too valuable to take out of the rotation as he pitches deeper into games and is more of an intimidating presence. But that's just my two cents.

There was a great line from a caller about Carl Pavano - he pitches great on 500 days rest. Max joked that instead of going with a five man rotation, the Yankees should go with a five hundred man rotation.

As always, the Max Kellerman show (in my opinion) had an element of Torah thought. It was observed that Robinson Cano's numbers have greatly improved since Melky Cabrera was sent to the minor leagues. Max then reiterated his previous observation that Melky and Cano had partied too much together. Max then talked about how after kindergarten he had always been separated from his best friend so that they would not make too much trouble.

This of course finds its roots in Torah. When Sarah observed that Ishmael was doing many bad things, she was concerned about his impact on Isaac. When she brought her concerns to Abraham and requested that he send Ishmael away, Hashem said to Abraham "All that Sarah tells you, listen to her." (Bereishis 21:12). Sometimes, people need to be separated for their own well being...

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday Night Suds - Saranac Belgian White Ale

Tonight's Sunday Night Suds beer review looks at Saranac Belgian White, yet another interesting brew included with the Beers of Summer mix box.

As devotees of this page are aware, I am actually a big fan of the Saranac beers brewed by the FX Matt Co. While I can't say that every variety is a hit, they more often then not produce a brew worth talking about. Interestingly, I received an e-mail from one of the better Long Island beer stores (Big Z in Huntington) that they were having a Saranac sponsored beer tasting this past Friday and Saturday. While I could not attend the Saturday event, I was sorely tempted to go to the Friday tasting, not to try the beers since there was no way I could get a designated driver to take me home, but really just to meet the Saranac people and properly thank them for the beer they produce.

But back to the Belgian White. The brew notes on the Saranac website indicate that they brew the beer with oats, wheat and barley malt. The use of oats is unique to Witbier (of which the Saranac Belgian White models itself after) as I am unaware of any other variety which uses oats in the brew process.

The beer itself is a lighter taste than a classic Witbier or Hefeweizen, in fact I would compare it favorably with the "original flavor" Blue Moon (as opposed to the seasonal varieties). It has moderate carbonation and a rich amber color with a little bit of foam that stays well beyond the pour. It goes very well with meat dishes such as steak, barbecue and Asian food. It would probably go well with pizza too, I just have not had the opportunity since you only get two bottles in the summer box and they are not offered in six packs of their own.

Saranac Belgian White Ale is under the Kosher Supervision of the Vaad of Detroit as are all beers brewed by Saranac. For the experts' take on the Belgian White 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, August 21, 2008

Thursday's Torah Tidbits - Parshas Eikev

I recall once hearing a mashal about a man who was stranded in a foreign land. The man found that the streets were littered with precious gems, much like gravel. The man picked up the gems and began putting them in his pocket, believing that if he could only find a way home he would become a wealthy man. As time wore on, he realized that he was not going home anytime soon and he began to learn about the land he was in. In this country, the most valuable possession was milk. The man worked and worked and was able to buy a cow. He then redoubled his efforts and became an exceedingly successful dairy farmer. Once he had enough money, he purchased a ship and loaded it with vats of milk for the long voyage home. Upon his arrival in his home country, he realized the fallacy of his actions as the (now spoiled) milk was worthless.

I can't remember where I heard that mashal, but it is appropriate when considering an interesting posuk in Parshas Eikev. In Devarim 10:12, Moshe tells the assembled Jews, "V'ata Yisrael, mah Hashem Elokecha shoel mey'imach, ki im lirah es Hashem Elokecha..." Translated ino English, the Torah tells us that Moshe says to the Jews, what does Hashem ask of you, only to fear him and to go in his ways...

Rashi, in his second explanation of the pasuk indicates that chazal (citing to Gemara Berachos 33b) learn out from this verse the famous concept - "hakol bi'yidei shamayim, chutz mi'yiras shamayim" - everything is in Hashem's hands except fear of Hashem.

As noted by the Vilna Gaon, what a person considers valuable is what is least prevalent where he dwells. The Gaon brings a pasuk from Isaiah (33:6) where the prophet writes that fear of Hashem is what Hashem stores in His treasure house. The Vilna Gaon explains that to Hashem, the most valuable commodity is yiras shamayim. Since Hashem created the universe and all the worldly possession therein, He obviously has the power to make more gold and jewels, thus He has no need to store these things in His treasure house. Yiras shamayim is an entirely different topic as Hashem does not create it. In order to bring yiras shamayim into this world, we must choose to act and live our lives in the way that Hashem intends. If we choose the correct path, we can create more of this treasure, which Hashem will anxiously store in His royal storehouse, as to Him this is the most valuable treasure. However, the choice to do so is entirely up to us.

As this is one of the sheva d'nechemta, it would be appropriate to note that while the choice to build our level of yiras shamayim is ours alone, Hashem will assist us if we ask. The Ma'ayana Shel Torah brings the Ohel Torah who has an interesting take on the concept of hakol bi'yidei shamayim, chutz mi'yiras shamayim. He writes that "hakol bi'yidei shamayim" - when a person prays for something, Hashem can decide whether or not the person is worthy of receipt. This is tempered by the end of the phrase - "chutz mi'yiras shamayim" - that if a person genuinely wants to return b'teshuva, there is no doubt that Hashem will always grant him assistance in this endeavor.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wednesday's Weird But True Legal Cases - Vol XXIV

Today's Weird (but true) legal case follows the same theme as last Wednesday's offering - when is the First Amendment trumped by a municipality's need for order at a sporting event. Thanks to all those who wrote in about last week's case and inspired me to look for similar situations arising in other jurisdictions.

In State v. Morgulis, 166 A.2d 136 (Superior Ct. App Div 1970) a New Jersey appellate court considered a matter in which an attendee at a High School basketball game expressed himself and as a result was convicted of "uttering loud and offensive language in public" and "disturbing a place of assembly" thus earning himself concurrent thirty day jail sentences.

The facts recited by the Court in its decision include that:

On February 7, 1969 defendant attended a high school basketball game, anticipating some form of confrontation between black students and the administration, and intent on obtaining pictures and tape recordings of the events. During the pre-game activities the mayor announced that if anyone should show disrespect for the flag by refusing to stand during the national anthem, spectators would be barred from future sports events. Defendant shouted that it was illegal and unconstitutional to force anyone to stand during the ceremonies. He admits that disputes immediately flared up between himself and nearby spectators. At this point a plainclothes detective mounted the bleachers and sat next to defendant. The detective testified that nearby fans had requested defendant to be quiet; they wanted to watch the game, and some of them began to move away and express displeasure with defendant's mouthings. Defendant then gestured obscenely and loudly uttered a lewd chant: “_____, _____, Gestapo, _____, _____,” patently indecent language which need not be reproduced here. The detective then arrested defendant and quietly led him out of the gymnasium.
Following the defendant's conviction in municipal court he appealed to County Court where after a trial he was found guilty on both charges. On appeal to the Superior Court, Appellate Division, the defendant argued that his conduct was protected by the First Amendment's right to freedom of expression. In so doing, he argued "that the offending conduct must have been his initial retort to the mayor and, relying on Garner v. Louisiana, 368 U.S. 157, 82 S.Ct. 248, 7 L.Ed.2d 207 (1961), contends that the State may act to limit speech only in the narrowest of circumstances."

In stating the law in NJ, the court noted that,

While it must be conceded that the State may not unreasonably restrict personal freedoms, it is equally apparent that the State may protect its citizens, in the exercise of their right to peaceable assembly, from riotous or potentially dangerous disturbances. In any event, the long line of cases attempting to delineate the permissible limits of restriction are neither consistent in theory nor particularly reconcilable in practice. Moreover, it might here be noted that defendant's reliance on Garner is misplaced, for the holding in that case, a conviction of sit-in demonstrators for ‘breach of the peace,’ rested on the lack of adduced evidence that any ‘disturbance’ had in fact occurred.

In light of the above, the court affirmed the conviction, explaining that:

While it is obviously less forceful to argue that ‘order’ must be maintained at a basketball game, surely the municipality is entitled to exercise some degree of supervisory control over the more disruptive elements at an interscholastic event. We find that the State presented sufficient competent and credible evidence to indicate that the Totality of defendant's conduct in the bleachers was loud, offensive, disruptive and disturbing to the neighboring spectators. Certainly, the constitutional provisions guaranteeing freedom of speech do not extend to intemperate and intentional offensiveness which impinges on the rights of others. Moreover, defendant's conviction under N.J.S.A. 2A:170-28 does not rest so much on what he said or on when he chose to say it, but rather on the allegedly abusive and disruptive character of his intentional outburst.
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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Gittin 39

Gittin 39 continues the discussion as to how to fully emancipate slaves in order to both allow them to achieve financial independence and to permit them to marry. On Gittin 39b, the gemara revisits a scenario first broached on 38b, in which a slave owner had declared that his slave was financially free (hefker) without giving the slave the requisite emancipation document (shtar schichrur). When first raised on 38b, Rebbi had said that the only way that this person could be fully free (and thus be permitted to marry) was if the slave received the emancipation document.

When the topic was broached again on 39b, R' Chiya was asked what was the actual controversy that prompted the discussion. In the answer, the gemara provides insight into the concept of kinyan chalifin. By way of introduction - as taught more generally in Bava Metzia, a kinyan chalifin is a method of transfer by which a person uses an object to act as a surrogate for the transaction. This is traditionally accomplished with an item such as a handkerchief (i.e. kinyan sudar) whereby the buyer gives the seller the handkerchief and in so doing effects the transfer of the item that he wants.

R' Chiya explained that the scenario in our gemara involved a female slave who belonged to a man who was dying. She asked the man to set her free, to which he threw her his hat and said that she should take the hat and make a kinyan on it, while at the same time freeing herself as the hat would serve as the kinyan chalifin for her emancipation.

When asked whether this was an effective form of emancipation, R' Nachman indicated that it was not. The gemara then explains that observers thought that R' Nachman answered negatively because he follows the school of thought of R' Shimon that the emancipation must only be by document and cannot involve a monetary transaction. The gemara indicates that this is incorrect, as the rationale behind R' Nachman's ruling was that the kinyan chalifin was ineffective because the kinyan must be carried out with an item that belongs to the individual who is accepting the transfer. This is an important point as it relates to kinyan chalifin, as it underscores that it can only be accomplished with an object that belongs to the buyer. Had the owner attempted to emancipate the slave with an object that belonged to her as the kinyan, the emancipation would have been proper. However, since the kinyan chalifin was done with an object that belonged to the "seller" it was ineffective.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Max Kellerman's Monday Musings Vol XXIII - Baseball, Basketball, and Bar/Bat Mitzva

Today's Max Kellerman and Brian Kenny show had a great deal of sports talk with appropriate measures of social commentary sprinkled in. Of course, that's just my opinion, you can form your own after reading this post.

There was some Mets discussion which focused on Johan Santana and his complete game shutout on Sunday. Max commented that "now Mets fans think that Johan is finally living up to his contract as he threw a complete game shutout." He theorized that Johan is actually not pitching any differently then before, he is just playing inferior competition. Without having analyzed Johan's stats I can't disagree. (Max did a breakdown of his stats, I just wasn't paying close attention at the time). I will say that his only other complete game was against the Cardinals three weeks ago and they are not exactly cellar dwellers.

There also was some refreshing intellectual honesty in discussing the Yankees outfield, including Brett Gardner. Max Kellerman felt that the outfield was OK, but that OK was not good enough when you were talking about the Yankees. He also said that Gardner should start for a team, but preferably one in the NL Central. I'm not sure exactly what he means by that, since three of the six teams in the NL Central (Chicago, Milwaukee and St Louis) have better records than the Yankees. Maybe he is just planning for the next fleecing of the Pirates. Hey, since Brian Cashman listens to the show, maybe he is making plans...

Speaking of Brett Gardner and his fall from HOF status, I'm wondering what another rookie NY outfielder needs to do in order to merit mention on the Kellerman and Kenny show. Daniel Murphy is hitting .415 with a .510 OBP and .659 slugging in 15 games. Now, I don't listen to the guys all day every day, but I would think that at some point I would have heard them mention him.

Although Max has come around with his views on the Yankee outfield, he is still predicting that the Yankees will make the playoffs since Phil Hughes, Joba, Dan Giese and Matsui are coming back. Well, two of the four may have an impact, but the chances of the Yankees making the playoffs are even worse than the Knicks chances of getting to the postseason .

Speaking of basketball, there was a fair amount of basketball chat, triggered by the 'Redeem Team' performance at the Olympics. The analysis was interesting in that Max and Brian were talking about players who attempted to be "the next Michael Jordan" but fell short. Max used a very interesting phrase in discussing Lebron James, saying that Lebron "was not under the anxiety of influence of Jordan" while Kobe tried too hard to be like Mike. Brian also had a great take on the Jordan come latelies (my term not theirs) as he believes that the whole "next Michael Jordan" is an invention of the media, used as a filler to stimulate talk, but lacking in substance. Its refreshing to hear this from a person who has spent decades in the sports media, although Brian always seems to be honest in his analysis and his candor is appreciated.

In connection to the Olympics, Max expressed his satisfaction that the US had trounced Germany in basketball. He then let on that he used to watch the Olympics with his zayde who would root that the German athlete would get injured. I'm jealous, since I never really got to know my grandfathers as they had both passed on by the time I was seven. However, given what that generation went through its more than understandable that he rooted that way. My father's generation (the children of survivors) were virulently opposed to buying German products. Considering that their parents could not even talk to them about the horrors they saw in Europe, how can they be questioned in avoiding German cars?

Max also had an interesting take on Brett Favre and as always, it lends itself to Torah thought. Max mentioned that Brett had a fine game against Washington, but that it does not mean all that much as it was only the preseason. Its funny, but I had just heard a speech on Shabbos at a bat mitzva where the Rabbi talked about how the girl would now be responsible for her actions since she is a halachic adult. He then asked a great question - what does that mean for the miztvos she did before she was bat mitzva, are they meaningless? The answer of course is no, they are not meaningless, there is just a greater level of reward now for her actions. The same can be said for preseason football. While the passes, catches or tackles may not count in the player's official statistics, they are still quite valuable. By getting repetitions with the team, the players will become familiar and will have done the practice necessary to succeed when the games are real. The same can be said of the concept of chinuch - learning how to do mitzvos before the child becomes a bar or bat mitzva. As the child learns how the mitzvos are to be performed, the child gains the invaluable experience of preparing for "the game" before the scores actually count. Much as the quarterback's completion for a TD in the preseason will leave both the QB and the receiver with a sense of accomplishment (despite the fact that the game does not count) a child should take pride in doing mitzvos before he or she becomes of age and the scores start counting for real.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday Night Suds - Saranac Kolsch Ale

Tonight's Sunday Night Suds review looks at Saranac Kolsch Ale. The good folks at the FX Matt Brewery make this brew in limited quantities and throw it in their Beers of Summer Mix box. For those looking to broaden their beer appreciation and try new styles, mix boxes are a great thing. Saranac does one for the summer and a different mix for the winter. Sam Adams also makes a great summer box. Their winter box, well that's another story - you get two bottles of Old Fezziwig (possibly the best brew ever produced by the Boston Beer Co) and two bottles of Holiday Porter (also a great beer). Unfortunately, you also get two bottles of Cranberry Lambic - possibly the most foul brew ever created by man.

One of the other advantages to mix boxes is that when you buy beer in Pennsylvania, you don't have to get 24 of the same kind. In Pennsylvania, the beer stores can only sell beer by the case (usually 18-24 bottles/cans per case). If you want to buy six or twelve packs you need to go to a restaurant or bar. This past Friday, I was driving to visit my brother in PA for shabbos and I wanted to get beer. I stopped in a local store that looked promising and picked up a mixed case of Redhook which had four different styles. Without the mix box, I would not have had any beer for shabbos as 24 of one type is just too much for me, even when drinking it over a few months. (Yes I have four 12 packs of Honey Moon in reserve, otherwise I could have gotten the Blue Moon summer offering).

Saranac indicates on its label that the Kolsch is intended to "pay homage to a 1000-year tradition rooted in Cologne, Germany. Clear, crisp and easy to drink, the Kolsch of today is lighter than the "House" beer that was served in Cologne 200 years ago - the city that made Kolsch famous." Personally, I find the beer to be a lot like a Pilsner, and that's not a good thing. The beer itself is extremely light in color and flavor and would go well with almost any kind of food, if you wanted something that had little more kick than water to drink with dinner. I hate to say it, but I am glad that Saranac does not do a six pack of the Kolsch since I can't imagine anyone drinking six of these brews. Still, if you have a visitor who wants a beer and does not want a beer taste (or as the old commercial goes, if you need something to wash your dishes with) the Kolsch is not a terrible option.

Saranac Kolsch Ale is under the Kosher Supervision of the Vaad of Detroit as are all beers brewed by Saranac. For the experts' take on Kolsch 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!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday's Family Photo

The kids and some of their cousins on
Visiting Day 2008 at Camp Mesorah

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thursday's Torah Tidbits - Parshas Va'eschanan

Parshas Va'eschanan begins with Moshe recounting his plea to Hashem that he be permitted to enter the land of Israel and Hashem's denial of his request. The Vilna Gaon teaches that Moshe had learned from the Malach HaMaves the secret to having prayers answered and that therefore Hashem had to tell him, "not a word more!"

The Vilna Gaon explains that Moshe had been taught that the use of the word "na" (please) twice in the same request is a formula for having prayers answered. The Vilna Gaon gives the example of the prayer that Moshe said when Miriam was sick "Kel na refah na la" - Hashem please heal her please. Of course we know that Miriam did recover.

In the same way Moshe sought to invoke the double "na" in Devarim 3:25 where he pleads "Ebra na v'ereh es ha'aretz hatovah" - can I please cross over and see the good land. The Vilna Gaon explains that Moshe wanted to add the word "na" a second time after the word v'ereh. However, (as related by Moshe in Devarim 3:26) Hashem told him to stop - "Al tosef daber eylai" - do not continue to speak to Me about this.

The Gemara in Sotah 14a brings a Medrash that explains the conversation between Moshe and Hashem. The Gemara asks - why did Moshe plead so insistently to go into the land of Israel? Did he need to eat its fruits and be satiated by its goodness? Rather Moshe said to Hashem - You have given the Jews many mitzvos which can only be fulfilled in Israel. Let me in so that I can observe the mitzvos. To this Hashem responds - since you wish the reward for keeping the mitzvos, I will give you the reward for having fulfilled them.

The Gemara's question and answer are difficult to understand. Why would Hashem think that Moshe's request was to simply eat the fruits of Israel? R' Chayim M'Volozin (as cited to in the Yalkut Lekach Tov) is bothered by the question and answer on an even deeper level - he asks whether Moshe only wanted the reward for the mitzvos (as opposed to doing the mitzvos themselves) and why is the answer that he will get the reward a sufficient response to Moshe's request?

R' Sorotzkin in his sefer Azanyim L'Torah suggests a thought which neatly ties up the questions raised above. R' Sorotzkin writes (mipi kabballa) that eating the fruits of the land of Israel has the power to deepen a person's devotion to Hashem. With this yedi'ah we can easily answer the above questions. Moshe did actually want to eat of the fruits of the land, because he wanted to attain this higher spiritual level. R' Chayim's question is answered in this way as well, Moshe did really want the result of the mitzva - it was not that he wanted to taste the fruits - he wanted to eat them in order to get the reward that came from eating them (the higher level of devotion to Hashem). As such, Hashem's answer to him was sufficient - although you will not make it into Israel to eat the fruits, I will give you the reward as if you did.

May we all be zocheh in the near future to eat the fruits of the land of Israel and achieve the higher level of spirituality that comes as a reward.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wednesday's Weird But True Legal Cases - Vol XXIII

Tonight's Weird (but true) Legal Case examines the interplay between the First Amendment and the need to maintain order at a baseball game.

In People v. O'Grady, 175 Misc.2d 61, 667 N.Y.S.2d 895 (Crim. Ct. Bronx Cty 1997), the court dealt with a matter in which an individual was prosecuted for running out on to the field at Yankee Stadium during the sixth game of the World Series in 1996. While many (although thank G-d not too many) fans do run out on to the field at sporting events, Mr. O'Grady was not merelt seeking the thrill of meeting the players or showing off his physique. Instead, Mr. O'Grady made a political statement as he had two messages written on his bare torso. "On his chest and stomach was written “Howard Stern for President.” On his back was written “Guilliani [sic] kiss my ...,” with an arrow pointing down to the defendant's buttocks."

In seeking to dismiss, O'Grady came up with a novel argument - that the prosecution was discriminatory as it was in retalitaion for his exercise of his right to criticize the government. In framing his argument, O'Grady's counsel noted that:

The District Attorney's office has recommended the defendant be given a ninety-day jail sentence if he chooses to plead guilty to the charges. The defendant complains that this overture is uncommonly harsh. He notes that another person charged with Trespassing on the field of Yankee Stadium during that same World Series game was allowed to plead guilty to Disorderly Conduct upon the condition that he perform only seven days of community service.
O'Grady had additional support for his argument that his case was being treated more harshly because of the writing on his body. He noted that "on December 17, 1996 the Judge in Part AP-2 asked why this case is being treated differently than other similar cases and the Assistant District Attorney responded: 'The writing on his body, your Honor, especially in reference to the Mayor.'"

In discussing the legal standard to be applied, the Judge noted that:

The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the State from enforcing even a valid law “with an evil eye and an unequal hand, so as practically to make unjust and illegal discriminations between persons in similar circumstances.” In Yick Wo v. Hopkins, supra, the Supreme Court held that purposeful discrimination in the administration of an otherwise nondiscriminatory law violates equal protection. This principle has since been applied in a number of cases. United States v. Falk, 479 F.2d 616 (7th Cir.1973) (refusing induction into the armed forces); United States v. Steele, 461 F.2d 1148 (9th Cir.1972) (refusal to answer census questions); People v. Utica Daw's Drug Co., 16 A.D.2d 12, 225 N.Y.S.2d 128 (4th Dept.1962) (village ordinance banning commercial signs greater than a certain size).
The court then explained that:

To establish discriminatory enforcement, it must be shown at the outset that there is a conscious and intentional discrimination in prosecuting for a crime in a community where there is “general disregard of a particular law”(People v. Utica Daw's Drug Co., 16 A.D.2d 12, 17, 225 N.Y.S.2d 128, supra) and it must be further established that (1) a similar crime was committed and that the prosecution had legally sufficient evidence connecting someone with the commission of that crime; (2) the prosecution singled out defendant because of “personal animosity, nonconformity, unpopularity, or some other illegitimate reason offensive to our notions of fair play and equal treatment under the law,” and (3) the prosecutorial determination to single out defendant was part of a pattern of discrimination intentionally practiced against him.

Following this review of the law, the court denied the motion to dismiss, explaining:

It appears that the defendant in the current case is being offered an ungenerous plea because of the writing on his body. However, it is precisely this writing that distinguishes this case from the unexceptional run-onto-the-field case. The allegations that the defendant had provocative announcements composed on his torso show that he had a different intent and a less spontaneous mental state. It shows preparation and premeditation. Furthermore, the message about the Mayor was vulgar and was very inappropriate for children, many of whom surely witnessed the episode. It does not seem unfair that this message-ridden spectacle should be treated less generously than the typical run-onto-the-field case. A very reasonable conclusion could be made that, unlike the fan so taken with the vitality of the moment, both the existence and content of the message showed a thoughtful and planned course to violate the law.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Gittin 32

Gittin 32 commences the fourth perek of Talmud Gittin. The first mishna contains numerous scenarios wherein the husband decides that he wishes to revoke the get that he has sent with a messenger and what must be done in order to prevent the get from effectively terminating the marriage.

On Gittin 32b there is a discussion comparing the act of designating a messenger to give a get with designating a messenger to deliver a gift. Within this discussion, Abaye says that we can make the comparison as both a get and a gift can be recalled because the messenger does not act to be zocheh for the item on the recipient's behalf. This is odd, as we previously had an extensive discussion as to how we do not say chavin l'adam shelo bifanav (we don't obligate a person without their agreement) but we do accept positives on their behalf (zachin l'adam shelo bifanav). Rashi and Tosafos (d'h L'holech) explain that what Abaye is teaching is -- if the sender tells the messenger "you are designated to deliver the item", he may not accept the gift on the recipient's behalf as his sole job is to deliver.

Another interesting point involves the mechanism that was previously used to revoke a get that had already been sent. The mishna on 32a teaches that originally a sender could walk into a beis din and have them revoke the get before it was given by the messenger to the woman. However, R' Gamliel HaZaken decreed that this could not be done by beis din and must be accomplished through subsequent messenger or direct contact between the husband and wife. Although the mechanism of revocation before beis din was no longer viable because of R' Gamliel's enactment, the gemara on the bottom of 32b (and continuing onto the top of 33a) discusses the number of individuals that were needed to form a beis din. As part of the conversation, R' Nachman says that the beis din can be comprised of 2 members. This is quite odd as with the exception of a discussion of one judge as a mumcheh (expert) the beis din is always an odd number and is usually 3. Anticipating the question, R' Nachman indicates that he learns that there can be two judges from the pruzbul wherein the mishna in shevi'is writes that the pruzbul recites that judge #1 and judge #2 were present. He then extrapolates that since the tanna only recites judge #1 and judge #2, the pruzbul could be written with a beis din of two and the revocation of the delivery of the get could be accomplished with only two judges. R' Sheshes then has a witty response - did the tanna in shevi'is have to spell out each judge the way a merchant has to count out the items in a transaction?

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Max Kellerman's Monday Musings Vol XXII - Jets, Baseball and Ayin Hara

Today's Max Kellerman and Brian Kenny show featured Jet talk (who can't talk about Brett Favre?) and some interesting baseball analysis.

In talking about the Golden Brett, Max put an interesting spin on the show, discussing about how Brett came from one of the most storied franchises in history to one of the most snake bitten ones. As a long suffering Jet fan, I can't disagree with his characterization of the Jets. I recall staying at my grandmother's (she should have a refuah sheleimah) for shabbos when I was 16. Right after shabbos was over I turned on the TV and saw that the Jets had lost to the Browns in the playoffs. It was much later that I learned that my beloved Jets had blown a ten point lead in the Fourth Quarter. One of the hosts on 1050 today (my apologies as I can't remember whether it was Brian Kenny or Mike Greenberg) told a story on the air today about how his father had booked tickets to Denver in anticipation of the AFC championship game during the Cleveland game. He said that his father later threw a pillow out the window.

Speaking of Denver, Sarah & I were at a wedding during the Jets - Denver AFC championship game in 1998. I recall getting home and playing the tape and being crushed again as another opportunity to see the Jets in a Superbowl went by the wayside. Not that Sarah cared at the time.

Before getting into baseball, there was an interesting moment last week when Max's mom called in to wish him a Happy Birthday. When Brian Kenny asked Mrs. Kellerman what Max's first words were she said "mine." I have a hard time believing that, since Max is an oldest child. Also, from my limited interaction with him over four days in Barbados he did not seem the least bit selfish and generally made himself available to everyone at the resort. But moms know best...

Its also kind of cool that his birthday was August 6th. I looked up his date of birth on the Jewish calendar for 1973 and if he was born after sunset, his birthday is Tisha B'av - a day that the Gemara says will be a major Jewish holiday after Moshiach comes.

On to baseball. Max had an interesting take on the the John Maine injury. Max spun it positively saying that it was good that he was hurt now because then he would be fresh when the team needed him to be and would be 100% by mid-September.

There was more of the Yankee greatest of all time bullpen talk. Again, Brian was the voice of reason, although one of the callers got Max to take back his Edwar Ramirez being better than Frankie Rodriguez statement. Well somewhat take the statement back. Max Kellerman said today that when he previously said that Edwar was better than K-Rod it was true at the time, even if it is not right now. He finished the thought with "the Yankees will make the postseason and Edwar will be the reason they get there."

Even with the slight disclaimer on Edwar Ramirez, it was still difficult to believe that Max Kellerman had even compared Ramirez to K-Rod. Edwar Ramirez's stats are purely a function of pitching in non-pressure situations. Yes he has pitched (now) 40 games with a 1.1 WHIP and an ERA under 3.9. The problem is that when he pitches in games where the Yankees are tied or winning by three or less runs he absolutely falls apart. Over 9 and 2/3 innings he has a WHIP of 1.96, an ERA of 9.37 and he has allowed three out of four inherited runners to score. Yes, Edwar Ramirez pitches fine when there is no pressure - he's fantastic when the Yankees are getting blown out or are blowing out another team. But when the game is tied or he comes into a game where the Yankees have a small lead he pitches like he's a member of the Mets bullpen.

As always, the show had an element of Torah thought. Max Kellerman commented that Melky Cabrera never has a outfield assist when Brian Kenny is watching a Yankee game. In talking about Melky and previously about the Jets, Max (perhaps intentionally, perhaps unintentionally) made reference to a concept that we would call ayin hara - that bad things sometimes happen when people are watching and they wish that the bad things would occur. In the annual Chofetz Chaim Foundation Tisha B'av lecture, R' Paysach Krohn made reference to this concept within a discussion of jealousy (this year's theme). He mentioned how being ostentatious -- driving cars that people can't afford and buying homes that they can't pay the mortgage on have multiple negative consequences. One of them was that they cause others to be jealous and that the jealousy destroys friendships as the other individual may come to "bad mouth" or otherwise speak loshon hara about the person. Additionally, R' Krohn made reference to the concept of ayin hara - that sometimes when others are jealous they wish that bad things will happen to the "lucky one." Occasionally these bad wishes come to fruition. By not being too showy about our possessions we can avoid causing others to be jealous and hopefully diminish the spread of loshon hara.

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Friday's Family Photo

Oh, a scary monster! No its only Moshe.
(Face painting care of the good folks at MLB FanFest)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Devarim

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 Devarim 2:9, Moshe tells the Jewish people that Hashem has told him that the Jews should not go to war against Moab because the Jews will not inherit Moab's land.

The gemara in Bava Kamma 38a, relates a conversation between Ulla and R' Shmuel bar Yehuda that took place when Ulla went to console R' Shmuel over the loss of his daughter. Ulla mentioned the above pasuk from Devarim before asking R' Shmuel the following rhetorical question - Why did Hashem have to specifically warn Moshe not to got to war against Moab? Why would Moshe even consider waging war against Moab without Hashem's permission. Ulla answers that Moshe made an internal kal v'chomer (a fortiori) argument - if the Jews were commanded to go to war with Midyan (in Parshas Pinchas) because Midyan only meddled in a fight between the Jews and Moab, then certainly we should fight Moab. Hashem then tells Moshe - your idea is not acceptable to me as I do not wish that the Jews should fight Moab (or Ammon). There are two fine pigeons that will come from them - Ruth (King David's Great Grandmother) and Na'amah (King Solomon's wife) so do not attempt to fight them.

As brought down in the Yalkut Lekcah Tov, R' Dessler writes in the Michtav M'Eliyahu that Hashem's answer to Moshe is indicative of the power of the most inferior form of z'chus avos. An example is given of a gold watch - a person may love or treasure their gold watch and will put it on a chain which will be connected to them. The chain itself has little to no value, however it is significant to the person because it insures that he will not lose his watch. In comparison to the minor value of the chain, the value of an individual link in the chain is infinitesimal. However, should that link break, the person will lose their valuable watch.

The Jews have a great power of z'chus avos whereby we receive things that we don't necessarily deserve simply because of the merit of our forefathers. Because Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'acov were such incredibly righteous men, we have been blessed by Hashem.

The power of z'chus avos also includes the promise of Hashem that there will be a Moshiach and that the Jews will be redeemed by Moshiach. In order to fulfill this promise, the Jews will need to continue as a people until the Moshiach comes. In continuing the perpetuation of the Jewish people until that time, Hashem allows some undeserved people to be blessed and to continue to live (despite their evil deeds) because He promised Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'acov that there will be a redemption. As such, the minimally valued links in the chain are permitted to stay attached so that the chain will never be broken. This is the level of zchus avos that Moab had, whereby Hashem said to Moshe, don't go to war against them, because they are links in the chain that will ultimately lead to Ruth and Na'amah.

The power of z'chus avos is malleable, however. I recently visited New Square with my daughter Penina, seeking a brocha from the Rebbe. I was approached by one of his chassidim who told me over a vort in the name of the Rebbe on the concept of z'chus avos. He said to me that z'chus avos is a zero. The number that a person puts in front of the zero is entirely up to them. It could be a one or a two or a fifty. The z'chus avos is just a starting point for us to build upon.

We find ourselves at this time before Tisha B'av as zeros, mere links in the chain connecting our fathers and the promised rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash. If we choose to better ourselves, we can be responsible for putting a big number in front of that zero and strengthening the chain that binds our past to our future.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Wednesday's Weird But True Legal Cases - Vol XXII

Tonight's weird (but true) legal cases examines the standards of responsibility that a rock concert promoter and municipality must utilize in protecting their patrons. In Maheshwari v. City of New York, 307 A.D.2d 797, 763 N.Y.S.2d 287 (1st Dept. 2003) the Appellate Division, First Department considered a matter where an individual who was distributing leaflets for the krishna society was beaten outside of a Lollapalooza festival at on Randall's Island in New York City.

In discussing the facts of the case, the court noted that the 59 year old plaintiff has been distributing krishna pamphlets to concertgoers in the Sunken Meadow parking lot outside of Downing Stadium. After handing out the pamphlets, the plaintiff returned to a van which held his belongings. As he attempted to unlock the van he was beaten by four drunken white men aged 18-20. The court noted that there was nothing in the record to indicate that the men were concertgoers, he had not seen them prior to the attack and they said nothing to him before or after the incident. The men were never apprehended.

The plaintiff filed suit against the City of New York and the concert promoter, alleging that they had disregarded their duty to protect the public. Central to this theory was a report by a journalist that the audience was "a moshing crowd of bare chested, sweating, staggeringly drunk and stoned 'Beavis and Butthead' types" that the Plaintiff argued the City and the promoter should have expected would become intoxicated and engage in aggressive and violent behavior. The Plaintiff also submitted that the defendants were negligent in that the 'post sheet' indicated that no officer had been assigned to patrol the parking lot.

The majority of the bench hearing the case ruled that the trial court should have granted summary judgment to the defendants. In so doing the court explained that even if there had been a lapse in security in the parking lot, the plaintiff's injuries resulted from the independent, intervening criminal act that did not flow from a lack of security.

Writing for the dissent, Judge Saxe (joined by Judge Mazzarelli) indicated that the matter should not have been determined on summary judgment and that a jury should have determined whether the incident was foreseeable. In so doing, the dissent cited to the fact that there had been arrests for misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct at prior Lollapalooza concerts and that at a pre-event meeting, the police captain had discussed the need to patrol the parking fields to make sure that there was no tailgating or drinking during the concert.

Under NY law, not every decision from an intermediate appellate court can be automatically appealed to the Court of Appeals (New York's highest court). One exception involves cases (like this one) where two judges of the Appellate Division dissent.

On appeal to the Court of Appeals, the matter was affirmed by unanimous decision. 2 N.Y.3d 288, 778 N.Y.S.2d 442 (2004). In so doing, the Court noted:

Here, the brutal attack was not a foreseeable result of any security breach. The types of crimes committed at past Lollapalooza concerts are of a lesser degree than a criminal assault, and would not lead defendants to predict that such an attack would occur or could be prevented. By all accounts, defendants took reasonable measures to deal with issues of crowd control and other forms of disorderliness short of unprovoked criminal acts. A random criminal attack of this nature is not a predictable result of the gathering of a large group of people.
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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Gittin 25

Gittin 25 continues a discussion that began on 24b relating to the concept of bereirah (choice). Put simply, the concept of bereirah allows an object to be designated retroactively. A prime example would be if a person had two goats and said that he wished to sell one of the goats, but did not yet know which one. The seller could then enter into a transaction whereby the buyer agreed to purchase the first goat that would leave the stable. Assuming that the concept of bereirah applies, the purchaser could pay the seller and then take whichever goat subsequently exited the stable (leaving aside issues of kinyan). If the law of bereirah did not apply, the transaction would be void as the buyer and seller had not come to agreement as to what would be purchased.

Within the discussion as to whether the concept of bereirah is legally cognizable, the gemara mentions the position of R' Yochanan who does not recognize bereirah. In order to prove this point, the gemara brings a fascinating case involving an inheritance. The father dies and leaves two fields to his sons, without designating which son was to receive which field. While the sons may divide the fields as they see fit, R' Yochanan posits that during the yoveil (jubilee) year, all the fields revert back to the father's estate and the division agreed to by the sons is void. Rashi explains that we are concerned that perhaps the father wished the division to be the other way and as such the sons are no better than purchasers, whose rights are terminated by yoveil. Of course, nothing prevents them from redividing the fields in the same way that they originally did once the yoveil is complete.

One other interesting point relating to bereirah involved a father who wished to stimulate his children to act. It is well established that in order to eat from the karban pesach, the person who wishes to eat (in addition to many other laws) must be nimne (registered) to the lamb prior to the shechita of the animal. This father decided that he wanted to motivate his sons, so he told them that whomever gets to Jerusalem first will be registered to the lamb. The gemara then indicates that whomever gets there first is nimne to the lamb and also serves to ensure that the rest of the children are included as well. Prior to resolving whether or not this teaches the rule of bereirah, the gemara paraphrases a historically significant question, as R' Yehuda says to R' Hoshiah "Mah inyan pesachim etzel gittin" (what is the connection of the karban pesach to divorces). The gemara then rejects the ability to learn bereirah from pesachim for a number of reasons. My personal favorite has less to do with the mechanics of the sacrifice and more to do with human nature. The gemara (quoting R' Yochanan) explains that the father always intended that all of his children would be registered to the karban, but only hid his intentions in order to get them to be energetic about doing mitzvos.

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Monday, August 4, 2008

Max Kellerman's Monday Musings Vol XXI - Of Baseball, Respect and Taking the Initiative

Today's Max Kellerman and Brian Kenny show featured the return of Brian Kenny (he had been away on vacation last week) who injected a healthy dose of realism into the discussion of the Yankees and their history.

In discussing the Yankee pen, Max acknowledged Edwar Ramirez's meltdown in yesterday's game, but then said (I was driving at the time so this is a paraphrased) that "Ramirez in his failure shows how he's the supreme stud relief pitcher on earth." To this Brian Kenny responded something to the effect of "look at the malarkey you are throwing out, he blew up."

I like Max, but sometimes he seems to get a little too caught up in the hype that he creates, with negative results when the situation implodes. Prime examples are most of the Knick roster such as Eddy Curry, Zach Randolph, Randolph Morris, Renaldo Balkman - the list of hyped prospects and acquired talent goes on and on. You would have thought that they would win a championship with all the "talent" that Max was describing before the last NBA season started. I wonder, if Brian had been riding shotgun earlier, would Max have continued to hype how great the Knick 2007-2008 team would be? Brian is the voice of reason that tempers the show when the hype seems to get a little out of control, kind of like are wives can be for us when we go a little too far with our daydreaming. But that's a conversation for another day...

Another interesting point dealt with Goose Gossage and his devoting some of his time during his Hall of Fame induction speech to stumping for the admission of George Steinbrenner into the builders wing of the HOF. I did not hear or see the speech given, but it sounds like a selfless act from a player who when interviewed over the last few weeks made statements like "I got the Yankees out of jams that even G-d could not get them out of."

The callers instigated a discussion about A-Rod and his ability to perform under pressure. In this, the hosts initially acknowledged that A-Rod does not perform well in the clutch, based on his numbers this year. Then later in the show the tide of the discussion turned as they began to mention his on base percentage and how taking a walk may be beneficial (certainly more than an out) when the team is down a run in the late innings.

In my opinion, by channelling the conversation about whether its better to take the walk or swing for the fences, Max brought an element of Torah thought into the conversation. In the Purim story, Mordechai asks Esther at 4:14, the rhetorical question of "who knows if for this very purpose you became the Queen." In so doing he says to Esther - Hashem has put you in the position where you can be the savior if you choose to act. This may be the very reason that you find yourself where you are. Now while A-Rod coming up to the plate is not nearly the same level of significance as Esther saving the Jewish nation, the concept is similar. He can be overly picky with his plate selection and take a walk, thus leaving it to someone else to be the one who determines the outcome of the game. Or, he can go after the pitch that might be slightly outside or low and in so doing take the initiative. Hashem puts everyone in the situation they are in for a reason, its for us to try to understand what is expected of us once we find ourselves in that spot.

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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sunday Night Suds - Saranac Hefeweizen

Tonight's Sunday Night Suds review looks at Saranac's Hefeweizen. Although sometimes confused with an American Wheat Ale, a Hefeweizen is a somewhat different brew. Unlike American Wheat Ales, a true Hefeweizen contains a ratio of 50:50 (or even higher) wheat with a yeast that produces a unique flavor, closely resembling banana. The "hefe" prefix means "with yeast" and the "weizen" means wheat beer.

I can recall the first few hefeweizens that I tried and how I could not shake the (mistaken) feeling that the beers were flavored, even though the labels clearly indicated that they were neither spiced nor flavored. I subsequently learned that weisse (wheat) beers have a specific flavor that is clove like in nature which is derived from the brewing process. The hefeweizen has an even more intense flavor that has that banana-like after taste.

The Saranac Hefeweizen has an amber color and a little foam. In my opinion it is best drunk cold by itself, without any accompanying food. I had mine tonight with a sefer after running around in the sun all day and it was truly refreshing. I shared some with my aishes chayil and she too remarked how good it was. Still, I would not drink this with food as the unique flavor would probably clash with a meal, although maybe it could go with banana cake...

Saranac Hefeweizen is under the Kosher Supervision of the Vaad of Detroit as are all beers brewed by Saranac. For the experts' take on the Hefeweizen 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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Friday, August 1, 2008

Friday's Family Photo

My older three at Shea Stadium for a Sunday Night game against the Dodgers in June
(thanks for the tickets Uncle Sruli)