Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wednesday's Weird But True Legal Cases - Vol XLIII

Tonight's weird (but true) legal case analysis was inspired by a recent letter to the editor which I read in one of the local Jewish papers. The writer had written to the paper to express her displeasure with people not shoveling the snow on their sidewalks. The person then stated that people should shovel because: (1) it was not considerate or menchlich to leave the sidewalk messy; (2) the failure to remove the snow could result in a ticket from the municipality and (3) the property owner could be sued if someone fell on the snow and ice which had accumulated.

I can't argue with the first reason mentioned in the writer's letter above, but the second two have been the subject of numerous court cases. Tonight, I would like to discuss Roark v. Hunting, 24 N.Y.2d 470, 301 N.Y.S.2d 59 (1969) which dealt with a pedestrian who slipped an fell on ice which had accumulated on a public sidewalk under a hanging sign.

In Roark, the Plaintiff broke his ankle as a result of a slip and fall on an icy patch of sidewalk. In his complaint, the plaintiff alleged that the ice was a result of water which had flowed off the gutter and leaders of an overhead sign and pooled in broken sidewalk in front of the commercial building.

Following a trial, an Albany County jury awarded the plaintiff $19,000 in damages as against the owner of the commercial building. This award was then affirmed by the Appellate Division. On appeal to the Court of Appeals, the court first went into a discussion about the liability of property owners for snow and ice related accidents, stating:

The basic rules in snow and ice cases were reviewed by the Appellate Division in Cannon v. Pfleider:‘As a general rule it is only the municipality which may be held liable for the negligent failure to remove snow and ice from a public sidewalk or to have defects and dangerous conditions in the sidewalk repaired, unless a charter, statute or an ordinance clearly imposes liability upon the owner in favor of the injured pedestrian. The parties cite no provision of any charter, statute or ordinance imposing such liability on an abutting owner. An abutting owner is not liable even though he fails to comply with a provision of a charter, statute or ordinance charging him with removal of snow and ice, nor is he liable for the removal thereof in an incomplete manner. It is also a general rule that an abutting owner is liable if, by artificial means, snow and ice are transferred from the abutting premises to the sidewalk; or if, by such artificial means, water from the property is permitted to flow onto the public sidewalk where it freezes. The basic distinction between liability and non-liability rests upon whether the water, snow or ice was conducted from private premises to the public sidewalk by artificial or natural means. The abutting owner may be held liable in the former case-where the unsafe condition was created by his own wrongful act. He is not liable in the latter case-where he committed no wrongful act.

So what did the Court of Appeals do? They reversed the decision of the lower court, since:

In the instant case there is not one iota of evidence that water flowed from the building or any instrumentality owned or controlled by the defendants. The evidence clearly shows that the water dripped from the sign and that this sign was erected by the tenant before [the landlord] bought the building. There is no evidence that [the landlord] controlled or maintained the sign, although it was attached to a pipe and bracket which were part of the exterior of the building. [The landlord] did testify that he was responsible for the exterior of the building, but the evidence fails to indicate that the water was conducted to the sidewalk because the sign was either negligently erected or maintained by the tenant, or because of a defect in the pipe and bracket which were affixed to the building owned by the defendants herein. The only evidence bearing on maintenance of the sign is the lease under which [the tenant] occupied the premises.

Keep in mind, the law in each municipality is different. However, if the writer of that letter lived in my town, she would be incorrect about the liability for the property owner, since the only liability would be if the homeowner did a poor job shoveling the snow, not of he chose not to shovel at all.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Preempted

Today's daf (Bava Kamma 58) continues a discussion started by the mishna at the beginning of the perek about the valuation of damages. The daf starts by discussing how the animal wound up falling into the field and whether the owner of the animal should pay the value of the benefit the animal received by falling on the produce or the value of the damage caused by the fall. This was largely dependent on the reason for the fall in the first place.

Rather than discuss the daf, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Kadosh Baruch Hu, my family, friends and the many people who have viewed this 'blog over the last year. Today marks the first anniversary of kosherbeers and what started out as a hobby has quickly grown to be a regular part of my daily life. Through this 'blog I have the opportunity to express myself in writing, but in a different fashion than what I do in the work place. Unlike my work which is dictated largely by the cases I am working on, the 'blog allows me to choose the topics I am writing about, be it: beer, sports, gemara, law or parsha. As a result, I often find myself smiling while I write my posts, even though they are usually written at 11 PM.

So now, one year and two hundred and forty plus posts later, I find myself wondering who gets more out of the 'blog, the people who read my musings, or me for having the ability to express myself. Is this a cause and effect analysis like today's daf? I can't tell you for sure. But I can tell you that I appreciate the 8100 clicks I have gotten over the last year and I hope that you all have appreciated my writing whether or not you agree with me or my opinion on beer, sports, Torah or law (and not necessarily in that order).

Finally, to those of you have served as inspiration for my posting, please accept my apologies if you feel that you have been slighted. I try to attribute the posts b'shem omro (see my post for Max Kellerman's Monday musings here for more on that concept) so that people are credited for their perspectives, while still protecting the privacy of my friends and those who e-mail me questions and ideas (as far as my family goes - you have no privacy).

So here's to many more kosher beers and good friends to enjoy them with!


Monday, February 23, 2009

Max Kellerman's Monday Musings - Vol XLII - Murphy, Manuel, Millions and Memories

Today's Max Kellerman show (in my opinion) was not typical Max - a little basketball, a little baseball, some hockey and no Giants. Still there were some usual Max elements. I'll try to recap the high points in this post.

Max started off by asking the listeners how their weekend was. He immediately asked himself why he did that, since he said that in real life he hates small talk. Maybe he was talking to Louie and Lundberg, but did not want to let on that he was breaking the ban. Max let it slip about a week and a half ago that he can no longer talk to his producers. Unlike previous "bans", Max no longer mentions the producers by name. The listeners have apparently been muzzled as well, since I have not heard any "free louie and lundberg" calls. The only reason I am not doubting whether Louie and Lundberg are still on the show is that they are still featured on the show's home page .

Max spent a little time at the beginning of the show on Jerry Manuel's announcement that Daniel Murphy will be starting for the Mets and that Ryan Church would be platooning with Fernando Tatis. Max wondered whether Church was in Manuel's doghouse. He also performed a feat of sabermetric analysis in talking about how the numbers from Murphy's AA and partial season with the Mets project him as an MLB player.

There was a great piece on Jim Calhoun and his press conference outburst at a "freelance reporter" who challenged him on his salary deal. Calhoun completed dressed down the reporter (and in my opinion rightfully so) for bringing the topic up at the press conference. He also mentioned that the UConn basketball program makes $12M a year for the school. No small feat when your program is in Storrs, CT - more than an hour away from any decent size city. As such, Max defended the salary that Calhoun makes (not that he really needed defending).

Max tied the Calhoun controversy into the ever present debate over Citibank and the naming rights at the new Mets stadium. Max correctly pointed out that big business needs advertising and that Citibank could justifiably spend $20 million on advertising. He then asked rhetorically whether people were saying that bailed out companies are not allowed to advertise (look out Detroit if that happens).

As usual, Max let a little of his personal life into the show. He talked about his wet socks, but I'll skip that one if its OK with you. The more interesting discussion came when he spoke about taking his three month old daughter (Esther) to visit his grandmother who is in a nursing home. He openly questioned why he had done this, because Esther nor his grandmother will have any memory of the event. He also talked about how all the old people wanted to touch Esther and how she keeps putting her hands in her mouth. I can sympathize with Max about the germ issue, but have to disagree with him about the memories. While he is correct that they may not remember it (I don't know what his grandmother has, but Alzheimer's and other age related memory loss is a horrible thing) there are ways to make it a positive experience for the long term. We took pictures of our older children with some of Sarah's grandparents when our kids were little. I am certain that her grandmother did not know who Penina was when we took the picture, due to her grandmother's advanced illness. However, by taking video and still pictures of my children interacting with their great grandparents, my kids will be able to do more than just listen to stories about their ancestors.

Speaking of Esther, Max returned to a familiar rant of his which has a link to Torah thought. Max talked about how he is "always getting ripped off" since his thoughts appear uncredited on TV shows or newspaper columns or even on the ESPN website. The concept of giving proper attribution can be found in the book of Esther which we will read in a few weeks. In Esther 2:22, the Megillah recites that Esther told the King in the name of Mordechai how Bigsan and Teresh were planning to kill the king. R' Elazar in the name of R' Chanina states in Gemara Megillah (15a) that this is a proof that whoever recites a saying in the name of the one he heard it from will bring redemption to the world. By telling the king that Mordechai was the source, Mordechai was recorded in the king's book as one who was owed a reward. This later set in play the saving of the Jewish people which began when the king could not sleep and asked that the book be read to him.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday Night Suds - Coopers Lager

Tonight's Sunday Night Suds looks at another of the great beers produced by the Coopers Brewery of Australia - Coopers Premium Lager.

I picked this beer up at American Beer on Court Street in Cobble Hill Brooklyn. Its a great beer store with a superior selection and staff who not only know what is in stock, but also know where the beers can be found in the store. You do pay a little more, but you really can't find a better combination of selection and service.

An interesting note about this beer is that as with most of the recent Coopers brews that are being imported into the US, the Coopers Premium Lager bears the Kosher Australia certification mark, along with the legend (in Hebrew) Kosher Parve L'Mehadrin. I find it difficult to resist trying beers that are labeled this way (although I was able to hold back from buying a sixer of the Extra Strong Vintage Ale which goes for a jaw dropping $23 a six pack).

The Coopers Lager was a typical lager as it poured a bright yellow color and had typical lager flavor and smell, albeit somewhat on the lighter side for alcohol taste. Although the website indicates that the beer is 5 % abv, it seemed to me to be a bit lighter than that. Since, I have no way to verify the alcohol content, I will have to trust them. Still, if you have tried it and agree with me, post a comment on the blog and let me know what you think.

Coopers Premium Lager is an excellent companion to most dishes as the lager flavor will not drown out your food. Of course, you could just have it by itself after a long day at work.

Coopers Premium Lager is under the kashruth supervision of Kosher Australia. For the experts take on the Premium Lager, please click here .

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

Finally, if you've tried this beer or any others which have been reviewed on the kosher beers site, please feel free to post your comments (anonymous comments are acceptable).

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, February 19, 2009

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Mishpatim

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 Shemos 23:5, the Torah instructs that if you see the donkey of someone who you hate lying under a burden, will you refrain from helping him? You should help along with him. The end of the sentence uses the language "Azov Ta'azov Imo." The use of the verb azov is odd, as it can also mean to leave someone alone. Rashi explains that the term azov can be used in different ways and that depending on the circumstances, a person should or should not be helped.

Targum Onkelos explains the use of the term azov in a more literal manner. When a person sees someone who he hates in a bad situation and the person feels that he wants to leave his enemy to suffer, the Torah teaches that he should abandon his feelings of hatred towards that person and assist him - hence the term "Azov Ta'azov Imo."

R' Frand connected the Targum's explanation of the pasuk to a story involving R' Bunim. He said that once R' Bunim was travelling on a cold winter night and wound up at an inn. As the innkeeper was feeding R' Bunim, he started to tell him about his financial troubles. It seemed that the inn was never full and the innkeeper was having a difficult time supporting himself.

While they were talking, there was a knock at the door. The innkeeper opened the door and a beggar entered. The beggar said to the innkeeper that he could not afford to pay to stay at the inn, but just wanted to warm up by the fire. The innkeeper allowed the beggar to come in and sit by the fire. Later, the beggar told the innkeeper that he could not get warm and then asked the innkeeper for a glass of vodka to warm himself up. Again, the beggar apologized for his inability to pay, but still asked whether he could have the vodka.

The innkeeper left the beggar and went to his vodka barrel. He filled a cup with vodka and then spilled it on the floor. The innkeeper then refilled the cup and again spilled it on the floor. This was repeated a number of times before the innkeeper finally brought a cup of vodka to the beggar.

R' Bunim then said to the innkeeper - maybe the reason you are losing money is because you keep wasting your resources. The innkeeper responded that he had not been intentionally wasting the vodka. The reason that he had poured out the first cup was that when he filled it he was upset and was thinking that it was a waste to give the vodka to someone who would not pay. The second time that he filled the cup, the innkeeper again had negative thoughts about his guest - thinking to himself that he was losing money by dealing with the beggar. The innkeeper continued to pour out the vodka cups until such time as he was able to do chessed with a full heart and leave behind his ill feelings for the beggar.

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, February 18, 2009

Wednesday's Weird But True Legal Cases - Vol XLII

This week's weird (but true) legal case looks at the matter of Badgley v. City of New York, 606 F.2d 358 (2d Cir. 1979) a case with a very intriguing fact pattern.

In Badgley, multiple suits filed by Pennsylvania landowners were consolidated for a joint trial against the City of New York. The basis for the suits was that the City's diversion of water from the Delaware River had diminished the value of their properties which were situated along the Delaware River. After the District Court granted judgment to the property owners, the City appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. This post will discuss the Second Circuit's reversal of the District Court decision.

Before getting into the decision itself, I need to explain one of the reasons that this case appealed to me. Leaving aside the intriguing arguments mentioned in the decision, I have a personal involvement in the sense that I recall numerous summer canoe trips down the Delaware River where it adjoins New York on one side and Pennsylvania on the other. The decision itself talks about how the Eastern and Western branches join at Hancock, New York and that prior to the confluence of the branches, the Western branch passes Deposit, New York where it abuts both New York and Pennsylvania.

In arguing that the lower court decision was incorrect, the City of New York leaned heavily on the argument that the landowners were preempted from suit because of a prior settlement in a lawsuit involving the states of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. While most people know that the Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the land, it is generally thought of as an appeals court of last resort which reviews the decisions of lower state and federal courts. However, the Supreme Court also has the jurisdiction to hear lawsuits between the states themselves. I can recall a suit in the not too distant past when New York and New Jersey were arguing as to which state actually owned Liberty Island in New York harbor.

As was relevant to the Badgley lawsuit, in 1929 New York City announced that it was planning to divert water from the Delaware River to provide for the City's drinking water supply. Thereafter, New Jersey filed suit in the Supreme Court of the United States, seeking to block the diversion. Soon after, the State of Pennsylvania intervened to protect the supply of water to Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania. After a considerable amount of testimony, a report was prepared by a special referee which was subsequently adopted by the Supreme Court in 1931. The decree limited the amount of water New York City could divert, while requiring that water be released by New York and New Jersey at regular intervals so as to protect downstream states from damages to municipal, recreational and fishery uses. Thereafter, in 1954 the decree was modified on consent of all states. Later in 1962 the four basin states entered into an agreement to create the Delaware River Basin Commission.

In reversing the lower court, the Second Circuit found that the Pennsylvania landowners could not bring suit because the prior lawsuit filed by the State of Pennsylvania had been filed as Parens patriae since Pennsylvania had been acting on behalf of all the citizens of the State of Pennsylvania. In so doing, the Circuit noted that "a suit may be brought by a state 'for an injury to it in its capacity of Quasi -sovereign. In that capacity the State has an interest independent of and behind the titles of its citizens, in all the earth and air within its domain.'"

An interesting side note is that while the property owners tried to argue that they had independent rights, the court disagreed, explaining that:
[A]ppellees are correct in asserting that Pennsylvania could not have brought suit or intervened in the suit against New York to protect a mere collectivity of private riparian rights. But to draw from this the conclusion that the individual interests of Pennsylvania's riparian owners were not represented in the suit and are thus not affected by the Decree is to ignore the obvious fact that the riparian rights of the appellees are not independent of Pennsylvania's rights in the waters of the Delaware River but rather are derivative therefrom and are subject to change by the laws of that state. Connecticut v. Massachusetts, 282 U.S. 660, 670, 51 S.Ct. 286, 75 L.Ed. 602 (1931). Thus, it necessarily follows that the rights of Pennsylvania citizens cannot exceed those of Pennsylvania itself and the extent of Pennsylvania's rights in the Delaware River was conclusively determined by the terms of the Decree.
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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday Night Suds - Saranac Irish Red

Tonight's Sunday Night Suds beer review looks at Saranac's latest offering - Saranac Irish Red Ale.

Irish Red Ales are truly ales for those who need to get their feet wet with hoppy brews, but are not yet ready for some of the more full bodied ales. I have seen some describe the Irish Red style as "the training wheels" for those looking to cross over from ales to lagers.

As described by the good folks at BA, Irish Red Ales are "[a] bit sweet, with a lightly hopped tea-like flavor, and an even dextrinous body, Irish Red Ales are easy to please. Look for well-rounded and blanced flavors, and a pleasant toasted malt character in many examples. A drying finish is common."

The Saranac Irish Red is a little lighter in flavor than the Samuel Adams Irish Red (reviewed here ). The beer is light orange in color and has a bit of caramel in its flavor. Although there is some bitterness to the brew, it pales in comparison to IPAs (no pun intended) and is very drinkable. I had mine tonight with pasta and meat sauce, but this could easily accompany any meal.

Saranac Irish Red Ale is under the kashruth supervision of the Va'ad of Detroit, as are all other beer produced by Saranac. For the experts take on Saranac Irish Red 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've tried this beer or any others which have been reviewed on the kosher beers site, please feel free to post your comments (anonymous comments are acceptable).

Finally, as a follow up to last week's questions regarding Hoegaarden White Ale, I have been advised by the OU that the appearance of the White Ale on the Le Marais menu was in error and that the OU has not approved this beer for use in its restaurants. I am still looking into whether any other kashruth organization has approved the Hoegaarden White Ale for consumption. During the interim, I will remove the post to avoid any issues of maaris ayin or lifnei iveir.

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, February 12, 2009

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Yisro

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 Shemos 18:1 the Torah writes that Yisro heard all that Hashem did for Moshe and the Jews. Rashi on 18:1 asks what did Yisro hear? He answers that the Mechilta teaches that Yisro heard about the spltting of Yam Suf and the war with Amalek.

Later, in Shemos 18:9, the Torah recites that Yisro rejoiced ("Vayichad Yisro"). Rashi again asks what was Yisro happy about? He answers that Yisro was happy about the manna from the skies, the well which followed them and the giving of the Torah. Rashi continues that on top of these things, Yisro was happiest that Hashem took the Jews out of Egypt because (again quoting the Mechilta) prior to this event, no slave had ever escaped Egypt.

Rabbi Frand then asked - why was this such an important event for Yisro? The splitting of the Yam Suf and the daily manna miracles were departures from the laws of nature. Why were these less significant to Yisro?

To answer the question, Rabbi Frand then re-asked the age old question - what does the line in the haggada mean when it states that if Hashem did not take the Jews out of Egypt we would still be there? He augmented the question by noting that today is the 200th Birthday of Abraham Lincoln - the man given recognition for freeing the slaves. If Lincoln could set the slaves free and apartheid had died in South Africa, why would the Jews still be slaves in Egypt?

R' Frand answered both questions by quoting the sefer Abir Yosef. He explained that the reason that no slave ever escaped Egypt was not because they had the best fences, or police or even dogs. Rather, the reason no slaves ever left was because the Egyptians broke down their slaves on a mental level, making them believe that they were subhuman. As a result of the Egyptians' intimidation tactics, no slaves harbored dreams of leaving Egypt.

Yisro was aware of the Egyptians' success in destroying the slaves' will to escape. As such, upon seeing how Hashem was able to take His people out of Egypt and reverse two hundred years of servitude and its impact on the human psyche, Yisro found this to be greater than the splitting of Yam Suf or the manna.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Max Kellerman's Musings Vol XLI - All about A-Roid

Today's Max Kellerman show was dominated by the Alex Rodriguez steroid controversy. (No during the show, Max did not refer to Alex Rodriguez as A-Roid, that is a product of my odd sense of humor). The following is my brief take on the portions of the show which I was able to listen to today.

Max started the show by assigning classifications for various types of players in the steroid era. The highest class was the known steroid users which Max defined as Bonds, Sosa and McGwire. The second tier was the accused steroid users - those who have been named by others but there has been no proof or admission of steroid use. The third class was the suspicious class. Max defined this group as consisting of players who had either subtle physical changes in their physique or whose game improved later in their careers when it should have decreased. The fourth class was the "everyone else" group. Max defined these as players who were "maybe yes, maybe no" steroid users where people would not be surprised to hear they were juicers. The final group of players were assigned the "no way" moniker. Max explained that if a person were to hear that one of these player used steroids it would evoke a "no way" reaction. Max identified Derek Jeter as one of these types of players. [Max actually named players for each of the aforementioned groups, but out of an abundance of caution I will omit those names from this post].

Max later discussed how the A-Roid revelation was the Watergate of the steroid era. This has been a common theme over the last few weeks on the Max Kellerman show as in discussing the Joe Torre book he indicated that the revelation that A-Roid had a "single white female obsession with Derek Jeter" was like catching Nixon. Similarly, on today's show Max indicated that people always had a suspicion that the President lied, cheated or stole, but could still retain their naivete that he was an honorable man. Once Nixon was exposed, people lost their ability to give him the benefit of the doubt. Similarly, now that A-Rod has been revealed as A-Roid, people will not be able to easily explain a player's marked improvement or prodigious skills.

Later, Max developed the idea that the impact of the steroids era is that players who are not juicers will still be suspects now that A-Roid has been exposed as a juicer. He gave examples of certain players who had early success but then blossomed later. Other examples were players who maintained a constant high level later into their careers. Unfortunately, guys who look good will be forever tarnished because they could be compared to steroid users.

I want to just take a moment to discuss one point that came out of the Peter Gammons interview which was on 1050 ESPN at 6 PM. [Yes, I know that Max Kellerman did not discuss the interview as the excerpts were not made public until later in the day]. When asked why he took the roids, Alex Rodriguez talked about how when he got to Texas after signing the richest contract in baseball, he wanted to prove to everyone that he was the greatest player in the game. This answer shows that A-Roid is still delusional and has not owned up to his actions. By using performance enhancing drugs, a player does not prove he is the best. Instead, he proves that only through cheating is he capable of being the best player in the game.

Max's discussion of how the A-Roid saga has become the Watergate of the steroids era has its roots in Torah thought. There is a well established Torah principle of "Maaras ayin" that sometimes we refrain from permitted activity because people might think that we have done something which is illegal and either: (1) draw the conclusion that the activity is permitted or (2) believe that the actor is an unethical person. Some examples are the fact that collector of the half shekel would wear clothes which contained no hem so that he could not be accused of secreting the coins in his clothes (Yevamos 102b) or not leaving laundry out to dry on Shabbos because it might appear that the laundry was done on Shabbos (Shabbos 146b). In order to avoid giving the wrong idea, we refrain from certain actions so that people do not believe that we have done something wrong.

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, February 5, 2009

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Beshalach

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 Shemos 13:18 the Torah writes "Vayasev Elokim es ha'am derech hamidbar yam suf vachamushim alu v'nei yisrael mei'eretz mitzrayim." Rashi comments on the word "vachamushim" that the Jews were armed with weapons. However, this concept is difficult to understand as the Torah does not recite anywhere that the Jews either had or took weapons from Egypt when they left.

R' Frand answered this question by quoting R' Berel Soloveitchik (who said in the name of his father the Brisker Rav) that the Jews were armed with the z'chus (merit) of carrying with them Yosef's bones.

R' Frand followed this by citing to a ma'amar chazal on the line in hallel "Hayam Ra'ah Vayanos." He stated that the yam ran (Vayanos) because the Jews were carrying Yosef's bones. It is written in Bereishis that Yosef ran outside (Vayanos Hachutza) when Potiphar's wife attempted to seduce him. Chazal teach that in the merit of Yosef's running away from sin, the yam ran away from the Jews.

In the sefer Shemen Hatov, R' Weinberg asks why the Jews needed the z'chus of Yosef to cause the sea to split? Didn't they have the z'chus of Nachshon who bravely walked into the water until it was up to his nose before the sea finally split? Wasn't this a great merit since Nachshon indicated that he believed so firmly that Hashem would make a miracle that he was willing to potentially sacrifice his life in an effort to prove that Hashem would save the Jewish people?

R' Weinberg answers that there are two distinct forms of acting "al kiddush Hashem." One form of kiddush Hashem is by giving up one's life al kiddush Hashem. The other form is the person who lives "al kiddush Hashem." The person who gives up his life gets a great reward for his actions because he dies to sanctify Hashem's name. However, once the person has given up his life, the act is complete.

In sharp contrast is the person who decides to take an action which sanctifies Hashem's name, but will not cause his own death. This person takes an action which he knows will have repercussions for many years, repercussions that he will have to live with and endure. This was the z'chus of Yosef. Yosef chose to resist the urge to sin with Potiphar's wife, knowing full well that he would be punished as a result. By resisting, Yosef voluntarily committed himself to a prison sentence which he knew could potentially last the rest of his life. Despite the fact that a long term punishment awaited him, Yosef chose to live "al kiddush Hashem" and as such his z'chus is great.

Rabbi Frand closed by comparing the act of the yam to Yosef. Yosef resisted human nature by ignoring the human desire for self preservation and choosing to act morally. Similalry, the yam, in staying open (rather than continuing to flow) also resisted its nature and allowed the Jews to pass without swallowing them up.

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, February 4, 2009

Wednesday's Weird But True Legal Cases - Vol XLI

Tonight's Weird (but true) Legal Case analysis looks at the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia's review of Judge Lamberth's decision in Agudas Chasidei Chabad v. Russian Federation, 528 F.3d 934 (D.C. Cir. 2008).

As discussed in last week's post ( in his 2006 decision, Judge Lamberth ruled that under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), Chabad could pursue the return of the "Archive" which consists of over 25,000 pages of the various Rebbe's handwritten teachings and correspondence. However, Judge Lamberth had ruled that Chabad could not seek return the "Library" which consists of more than 12,000 seforim and 381 manuscripts, since it belonged to a Soviet citizen when it was seized in the 1920s and thus the taking did not violate international law. Judge Lamberth also ruled in conclusory fashion that the acts of state doctrine would bar the court from considering the taking of the Library.

On appeal to the D.C. Circuit, the court first noted that contrary to the defendants' argument, both the archive and the library belonged to Chabad (and not members of the Rebbe's family as the defendants had argued).

In relation to the question of whether Chabad could seek recovery of the Library, the appeals court disagreed with Judge Lamberth's conclusion that the Library was properly seized by the Soviet government. In so doing, the DC Circuit noted that the Library had previously belonged to Chabad and not one particular Rebbe. As such, when it was seized in the 1920s it had been seized from a worldwide movement and not from a Soviet citizen. Additionally, the DC Circuit noted that since the Russian appeals court in 1991 had vacated an order requiring that the Library be returned to Chabad, the Library had been "retaken" by the Russian government and was thus a proper subject for the lawsuit.

In connection with the act of state arguments, the DC Circuit agreed with Judge Lamberth as to the Archive, but disagreed in relation to the Library. In connection with the Archive (seized by the Russians from the Germans post WWII), the defendants had argued that since Germany was occupied by Russia at the time of the seizure, the act of taking the archive was an act of a sovereign state within its borders and could not form the basis of the suit. However, the DC Circuit disagreed, citing to the Potsdam Protocol of 1945 showing that the castle where the documents was seized by Russia was in Poland. As to the Library, the DC Circuit took issue with Judge Lamberth's conclusory statement that the taking was an act of state, since under the "Second Hickenlooper Amendment" [I did not make that up] the act of state doctrine does not apply to seizures occurring post 1959. Since the seizure allegedly took place in 1991, the Court reinstated Chabad's claim as to the Library.

As a post script t0 the DC Circuit's June 2008 decision, on January 22, 2009, Judge Lamberth issued a Temporary Restraining Order, requiring the Russian Federation, Russian Ministry of Culture and Mass Communication, the Russian State Library and the Russian State Military Archives to take all necessary measures to secure and protect the Library and Archive. Although not fully discussed in the TRO, there appear to be allegations that "original pages of the collection" had been disappearing. Interestingly, this issue came up at the same time that the defendants' lawyers were moving to be relieved as counsel to the defendants due to a break down in communications.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Bava Kamma 37

The Mishna on Bava Kamma 37a gives various examples of how an ox can be mu'ad in one scenario, while Tam in another. Some examples mentioned in the mishna include: an ox which is predisposed to goring other oxen while being a tam for other animals; or an ox which is mu'ad to gore calves but will not pick on oxen of its own size. The mishna then relates that R' Yehuda was asked about whether an ox could be mu'ad for shabbos but not during the week. He responded that the owner would pay nezek shalem if the ox gored on shabbos, but would only pay half during the week.

Rashi and Tosafos have different explanations as to how this ox came to be mu'ad on shabbos. Rashi explains that the ox was essentially bored - since it worked all week but had nothing to do on shabbos, it gored. Tosafos explains (quoting the Yerushalmi) that it saw people wearing different clothing and did not recognize them and gored them because the ox thought they were strangers.

I heard an interesting vort on the concept of mu'ad l'shabbos from R' David F. He said that a woman once came to the Rogechover (sp?) and complained that her child would not nurse on shabbos. He responded "you have a baby who is mu'ad l'shabbos." He explained to her that the baby was not used to seeing her in shabbos clothes and did not recognize her. He suggested that the mother change into her regular (weekday) clothes when she nursed the baby. This solved the problem.

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Max Kellerman's Monday Musings Vol XL - Let the comparisons begin!

Having watched last night's Superbowl in its entirety, I was fairly certain how Max Kellerman would open his show today. When a game is as tight as SB XLIII was, with two Fourth Quarter comebacks, the pundits will inevitably call it the greatest SB ever. Of course, this presented a problem for Max, since there was no way that any SB could top his beloved Giants upset of the Patriots in SB XLII.

Max opened the show with numerous attempts to prove that SB XLIII was inferior to the Giants win in SB XLII. This included an argument that there was more of a media circus surrounding SB XLII due to the fact that the Patriots entered the game undefeated (true). He also argued that the natural rivalry of Boston-NY in SB XLII created a greater story (also true).

I must respectfully disagree with some of Max's other arguments for why SB XLII was supposedly the greatest SB of all time. Max asserted that the teams involved in SB XLIII were inferior to last year's teams. This argument must fail for two reasons. First, Pittsburgh was the No.2 seed out of the AFC playing against the NFC West division winner. Yes, Pittsburgh was not the #1 seed like last year's Patriots. On the other hand, the Cardinals were the NFC West division winners and not just a wild card team. The second reason why the quality of the teams is irrelevant (Max called it a battle of a very good team against a good team) is that the pedigree of the team is irrelevant when it is playing at a high caliber. Indeed, were Max to be quizzed about the greatest boxing match of all time, he would have to admit that it would not need to involve an undefeated champion against a scrappy fighter with a number of losses along the way. While it may make for great theatre (Rocky, anyone?) the best game involves two teams playing their best and putting on both an offensive and defensive show.

Max also attempted to argue that the Eli - Tyree catch (known to Max's fans as the "immaculate reception") was the greatest play in SB history. While it may have been a great example of how athleticism and luck can combine to dazzle an audience, it cannot go down as the greatest play in SB history because they did not score on the play. Indeed, what would have happened if the Giants went three and out after Tyree caught the ball against his head? It was a great play which was a key event in the game winning drive. But it did not hand the victory to the Giants like Holmes' fully extended toe tap. (For my money, the greatest SB catch is still Jerry Rice's one handed TD grab against the Bengals in SB XXIII which tied the game in the Fourth Quarter).

Of course there is a way to explain Max's view of the greatest SB of all time. Max's belief that SB XLII is the greatest SB of all time merely reflects that to him as a Giant fan, SB XLII is the greatest SB of all time. Meanwhile, to a Patriots fan, SB XXXVI is the greatest SB of all time because the Patriots won the game with a field goal as time expired. To a Jets fan, the upset of the Colts in SB III is the greatest SB of all time because the Jets were not even expected to compete in that game, let alone win (also because the Jets haven't gotten back to a SB since then).

As always, there is a Torah lesson to be learned from Max's show. When choosing a Judge to hear a halachic case, the gemara bends over backwards to try to regulate that the Judge should be disconnected from all parties so that he could impartially resolve the dispute. The gemara in Kesubos 105b relates stories about various Rabbis who refused to judge cases because of personal interactions which could have hindered their ability to be impartial. These stories include Shmuel who was crossing a bridge and was assisted by another passerby. When informed that the man had a case to be heard before him, Shmuel refused. Similarly, Ameimar was sitting as a Judge when a feather fell on his head. A person removed the feather and Ameimar then asked - why are you here? When the man responded that he had a case to be judged by Ameimar, Ameimar refused.

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sunday Night Suds - Pale Moon

This week's Sunday Night Suds review looks at the Blue Moon Brewing Co.'s latest offering - Pale Moon.

I first encountered this beer in late November 2008 when I needed to fill some time when a part in Queens Supreme Court was down for lunch. Since I had less than an hour, I went to visit Beer Garden, a hidden gem of a beer store located just over the Van Wyck off Hillside Avenue. While browsing the aisles of diverse micro, craft and imported beer, I came across a Brewmaster's Special box of Blue Moon containing four regular Blue Moon, four Full Moon (their Winter seasonal brew) and four Pale Moon. I knew that I had to try it.

The Pale Moon bills itself as a Belgian Pale Ale. As noted by the experts at Beer Advocate:
Belgian Pales consume the Belgian brewing scene, and were initially brewed to compete with Pilseners during the WWII time frame. They differ from other regional Pale Ale varieties, by traditionally being less bitter, using aged hops for a delicate hop finish, and boasting sweetish to toasty malt overtones. They should be decanted properly, leaving the yeast in the bottle. This will showcase their brilliant color range from pale straw yellow to amber hues. Most will be crowned with thick, clinging, rocky white heads. Flavors and aromas will vary. Some have natural spice characters from yeast and hops, while others are spiced.
In fairness to BA, the Blue Moon Pale Moon is nothing like the definition they utilize for "Belgian pales." The beer itself is not only "less bitter" there is basically no hop taste or bitterness at all. I am unsure why this would be a called a Pale Ale as it goes well beyond pilsner and almost reaches the weak lager like state.

Having said that, the beer went OK with our SB supper of heroes, chips (w/salsa and home made guac) and skinless hot wings. However, the Pale Moon's flavor was overwhelmed by many of the dishes so that the pairing was more of a "this does not clash with my meal" and less of "the flavors go well together.

If I was looking to introduce a beer to someone who drank chardonnay I would probably pick this brew (provided that I could find it in six or twelve packs). Draw your own conclusion by picking up Pale Moon at your local beer store.

Pale Moon Belgian Pale Ale is under the kashruth supervision of the Orthodox Union, as are all other beer produced by parent Coors Brewing Co. of Golden, Colorado. For the experts take on Pale Moon, please click here .

As always, please remember to drink responsibly and to never waste good beer unless there is no designated driver.
Finally, if you've tried this beer or any others which have been reviewed on the kosher beers site, please feel free to post your comments (anonymous comments are acceptable).

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