At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

SFAS EMES: LEARNING AND TEFILLAH

Introductory note:
Even though I'm a cynic, there are times when I find myself inspired by a chassidische vort. One of the Chassidic masters whom I find particularly stimulating is the Sfas Emes. Today I had cause to mention him in an e-mail, and in the past I've also referred to his verter.
So, because I think that it is boffo stuff....., maybe you might too.
How then can I not share it?



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REGARDING LEARNING:
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The Sfas Emes believed that learning is desirable, but is not for its own sake; it serves to accord us with the will of Hashem.

How so?
By being intelligent witnesses to the world that Hashem creates, by using our intellectual muscles to observe and consider the world, by acquiring knowledge, weighing and analyzing what we learn and experience, and striving in Torah – we will encounter the Presence wherever we are, and in everything we do. In other words, we gain knowledge so as to have the seichel to act consciously, and thus we may become aware of Hashem, despite the Hester Panim.

[Hester Panim = The veiling of the face, which refers to Hashem obscuring even the signs of his presence from our perception (the Rambam explains that we cannot describe Hashem, because Hashem is indefinable, and even describing attributes limits what we cannot limit). Were it not so, there would be no free will, the freedom to choose would not be ours, and we would not be zoche to choose wisely.]


The Sfas Emes, citing his heilige grandfather the Chiddushei HaRim, interprets psook 16:18 in Dvarim (parshas Shoftim) – "Shoftim ve shotrim titeinu-lecha, be chol sheariteicha, asher HaShem notein lach" (Judges and officers shall you appoint, in all the gateways (cities) which the Lord has given you), as a command to guard the gates to our awareness and monitor our senses, so that we do not see what we should not see, nor hear what we should not hear.

We have the ability and the intelligence to look the other way, as we standardly do when confronted with immodesty or something embarrassing.

B'yad achar, one's behaviour may at times demand discretion, but by the same token people should mind their own business - thus we shall not engage in lashon hara, nor be led astray by the example of others.


It is a matter of self-control, and such self-control also means self-knowledge.


The Sfas Emes opines that if you have learned much Torah, the insights thus gained will teach you to not take overmuch credit for yourself. Only one who knows a little pumps himself up over his accomplishments.

With that in mind, why should we fear what is new, or what contradicts our preconceived ideas?

Rather, with sound judgement, common sense, and a flexible mind, we should enthusiastically explore what we don't yet know.

As it says in Psalm 23, psook 23:4 "Gam kiyelech begei tzal movet, lo iro ra; ki Attah immodi, shivteika u mishanteika hemmoh yenachemuni" (Indeed, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for You are with me, Your rod and Your staff comfort me).



Afterthought:
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The Sfas Emes, again citing his grandfather the Chiddushei HaRim cautions that one should think before action (thus using judgement), and also afterwards (saying the appropriate blessings recalls the grace of the Hashem).


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REGARDING TEFILLAH:
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The Medrash Rabba in discussing the first aliyah of Parshas Vaetchanan (And I Beseeched; Dvarim 3:23 - 7:11), quotes Rabbi Yochanan, who says "Torah uses ten different terms to describe prayer" – yet the term Tefillah is not one of them!
Why?

The Sfas Emes explains the ten terms that the Medrash lists as not being prayer itself, but the hachanos (preparations) for prayer – methods and advices (drachim va eitzos; paths and aids) with which one can reach a state of contact with Hashem.

Prayer is of two types: silent prayer, and prayer said aloud.

It says regarding Hannah in Shmuel (Samuel) 1:13 "Ve Chana hi medaveret al leiba rak, sfateiha na'ot, ve kola lo yishamea …" (And Hannah, that spoke in her heart, her lips moved, yet her voice could not be heard…). From this we learn that one may pray silently.

Eli, witnessing her thus, presumed her drunk, because he did not hear her speak, and was accustomed to spoken prayer, as was usual in that age (according to Rashi).

Many give voice when davening, but Chazal question whether one may even pray aloud, as loudness is equated with arrogance.
If the heart and the mind are both involved, what need is there for the tongue?
What matters is intent.
Tefillah, which does not involve an action affecting the world, is the one act which is absolutely pointless without kavanah.

Kler, nu?
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Sfas Emes = 'The Lips of Truth', so known after his magnum opus; Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh Leib Alter Ben Avraham Mordechai (b. 1847, d. 1905), second Gerrer Rebbe, grandson of the Chiddushei HaRim (Rabbi Yitzhak Meir), with whom he learned.

Aryeh Leib was a brilliant child, and when orphaned by the death of his father (Avraham Mordechai Alter), was raised and taught by his grandfather (the Chiddushei HaRim, first Rebbe of Ger), as is very evident in his commentaries, which often start with a thought from the Chiddushei HaRim.

His son, the Emrei Emes, escaped from the Nazis and rebuilt Gerrer Chassidus in Eretz Yisroel, where his descendants continue the tradition of their ancestor.

Chiddushei HaRim = 'The Innovativa of Rav Yitzhak Meir' (a bookname; the term chiddush means innovation); Rabbi Yitzhak "Feige" Meir Rothenburg Alter (1799 – 1866), the first Rebbe of Ger, who became a disciple of the Seraf of Kotsk (Rav Menachem Mendel of Kotsk, 1787 – 1859) while still very young. A descendant of Rashi and King David.
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For more on the Sfas Emes visit Torah.org and subscribe to the shiurim of Dr. Nosson Chayim Leff at: http://www.torah.org/advanced/sfas-emes/
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REGARDING THE SERIES ABOUT THE JEWS OF EINDHOVEN

Rabbosai,

I apologize to those of you who were anxiously awaiting the third installment - I've been kinda moody, and that impacts my scribbling. The series will resume soon.

I've got a good part of the account of the first synagogue in Eindhoven already written, but the dispute within the kehilla (and what small isolated community doesn't find a feud to divide them?) is as yet only the merest outline.

I will finish and post it within a day or two.


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The previous postings on the Jewish community of Eindhoven can be found here:

Part one (The first settlement in the eighteenth century and the opposition of the city fathers):
http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2006/03/short-history-of-jews-of-eindhoven.html

Part two (Mr. Benedict takes on city hall):
http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2006/03/short-history-of-jews-of-eindhoven_23.html


Friday, March 24, 2006

PIPE TOBACCO: SOME G. L. PEASE BLENDS REVIEWED

G.L. Pease is one of the few bright notes in the pipe-tobacco field, appearing a few years ago with some stellar blends at a time when it looked like the industry was fading.

It has been said that McClellands blends their tobaccos with the aficionado of matured Virginias and Flakes in mind, so that even their English-style blends will have that aged Virginia fruitiness (described as prune or plum, though recently also called ketchuppy). McClellands are fine blenders, and their more recent English-style products are very good indeed. Evenso.

G.L. Pease, on the other hand, clearly has the sensitivities of a smoker of English-style blends. All of them have a fine, winey, somewhat dry tin aroma, and a mildness and velvety tongue-feel which is extremely pleasing. Smokers of the old Balkan Sobranie mixture in the white tin will certainly appreciate these products, as will many who have smoked Dunhill's Standard Mixture or the 965.


The following are notes from when I was comparing these blends, trying to decide which ones I wanted to stock up on (it will be remembered from this posting http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2006/03/new-book.html why I am stocking up).

ABINGDON
BLACK POINT
CHARING CROSS
KENSINGTON
RAVEN'S WING
SAMARRA

ABINGDON: Broad ripped ribbon, brights and darks, high contrast. Toasty, with noticeable Latakia. A good Balkan aroma, full rounded flavour, smoky, wine-like. Burns richly.
The finish is between sec and robust, ending on a toasty note. The overall taste is centre of the tongue. Powdery ash, velvety. Recommended.

BLACK POINT: Broken ribbon, bright to medium brown, with darks. Speckled. Dry aroma, full range Anglo-Turkish, whiff of Perique, hint of an aged Virginia smell. Winy, Champagne-like. Clean smoking. Crumbly ash, gritty to dust. Highly recommended.

CHARING CROSS: Broad even cut, medium contrast with intermediary hues. An intriguing fruity Turkish aroma. A medium Balkan mixture with a fully developed Oriental fragrance. Burns clean, tending toward hot. The ash is a brittle medium grit. Note: too many stalks in the tin.

KENSINGTON: A broad range of Virginias and Orientals, both in appearance and in taste. Matured aroma with a smooth nose. Burns evenly, finishes clean with a fine ash. The tin aroma suggests toasted Virginia more than it states Latakia. Highly recommended.

RAVEN'S WING: Longish ribbons, dark brown to near-black, scant contrast. Has a full, toasty, very woodsy, aged aroma. The taste is tangy and dry, with a well developed beginning, but thins out near end. Fine ash.

SAMARRA: Ripped ribbons, slightly broken, in medium brown to dark speckled. Sec aroma, touch of Perique. Tastes smokey, robust flavour (pressed Virginia), medium on the Turkish. Mellow, slightly uneven burn, ash brittle to fine.


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For those readers who are somewhat baffled, a few notes of explanation:

1) Virginia. Virginia is a large flue-cured leaf, high in natural sugars and medium on the nicotine level. It often actually refers to tobaccos from places like Rhodesia, India, and the Carolinas. Also called 'flue-cured'. Traditionally it was aged in bonded godowns after import into the British Isles, often under slight pressure, which allowed fermentation, and kept down infestation by shrotzim.

2) Oriental. Also called Turkish, though much of it used to come from the Balkans, and some of it comes from Greece or the Crimea. A small leaf, high in resins and therefore flavourful and aromatic, but extremely low in nicotine.

3) Latakia. A medium leaf Oriental (Shek el Bint) from Al-Taqqiya in Syria, or nowadays a Smyrna-seed small leaf from Cyprus, smoke-cured till dark, which gives it an aromatic, tangy, smoky, creosote-like reek. It is the wood-smoky component in English blends. Smells strong, and drives people who prefer fruity aromatics up the wall. A tangy flavour.

4) Burley. Large leaf air-cured. Unlike flue-curing, which kills the leaf fast and preserves the natural sugars, air-curing destroys the natural sugars while maintaining a high nicotine level. Burleys, and their milder cousins the Maryland tobaccos, are often cased with sugar solutions to make them milder on the tongue. Pressing and aging do them little good, but the Cavendish treatment (pressure, heat, and flavourings) are particularly successful. Burleys are the fundament of some of the best plain blends, some of the worst aromatic blends.

5) Cavendish. Might as well be called Dutch-process. By the application of heat and pressure in a closed environment, flavouring matter is permeated through the leaf. This leads to some pretty ghastly results - aromatic mixtures that reek of chocolate, cherry, vanilla, peach brandy. Originally this was used to increase the sugar content of Burleys, to make them milder in taste, and to emulate the effects of aging or maturing on Virginias. Substances used at that time were at first mild sugar or honey solutions, then molasses, then vanilla and prune juice (giving it an aged aroma), till eventually the Dutch threw caution, common sense, and good taste to the wind, creating tobaccos with hardly a whiff of natural aroma left. The effect can be best described as Levantine cat house, attracting fruit-flies and cheap tarts.

6) English blends. Also called Balkan blends. Many are actually made in Germany nowadays. Usually a blend or mixture containing Virginias, Orientals, and Latakia. The standard medium English or Balkan Blend is about half Latakia, with the balance split fairly equally between Virginias and Turkish.

7) London Mixture. Usually a medium English blend with the addition of some Maryland to round out the Turkish.

8) Flake. A tobacco pressed into cakes. If kept under pressure and aged, the natural sugars increase by a process of fermentation, and the sharp edges mellow out. Not all commercial flakes are aged, though some are stoved. The compact nature prevents infestation while increasing storability.

9) Strong, light, and similar terms. These are used to refer to both flavour and nicotine content, and can be confusing unless the context is understood.

Virginias are strong (nicotine and sugars), but mixtures that are mostly Virginia are called light.

Latakia blends are called strong, but are considered lighter because they have less nicotine.

Turkish is full of flavour, but does not have enough nicotine to keep an addict happy, and is a light tobacco.

Burley is often described as light or medium, but has virtually no natural sugars and needs casing or sauce to taste mild. On the other hand, its choc-full of nicotine - hence American blend cigarettes, which contain some inferior Oriental style tobaccos for flavour, much Burley for nicotine, and some cheap Virginias for finish.



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What are my qualifications for talking about tobacco?

I first started smoking a pipe in as a teenager in the seventies. During the last two years that I lived in the Netherlands I smoked only English-style blends, usually the Balkan Sobranie. After returning to the US in 1978 I discovered Drucquer & Sons in Berkeley (on University Avenue just below Shattuck), a store from which both my father and uncle had purchased tobacco when they were at Berkeley. Shortly thereafter I took a part-time job there, and within the next year started experimenting with my own blends (none of which I would recommend), and learning how to restore collectible pipes.

Since leaving Drucquers I have always been within a mile of a decent tobacconist, and have spent many happy hours and way too much money experimenting with new blends, new mixtures, promising looking tins from old-world companies with names no marketing department would touch, and stinking up the apartments where I've lived.

I have long preferred English-style blends, but I've smoked many other types of tobacco.


I utterly despise aromatics, considering them an abomination, and the people who smoke them in some way deficient.


Final note: The names of the Drucquer blends will undoubtedly bring back fond memories for some people: Blend 805 (their most popular product, a medium English), Royal Ransom (the heaviest Latakia blend they made), Levant Mixture (more Latakia than 805, less than Royal Ransom), Trafalgar (I believe this was the highest old Mr. Drucquer ever went on Latakia), Arcadia (mild, Turkish, noticeable inclusion of toasted Cavendish). I'm sorry, I cannot remember the names of their lighter English blends, nor the Burleys and American mixtures, as I did not habitually smoke them.


Drucquers went out of business in the nineties.

I still have some of their 805 and Royal Ransom. And no one is getting any. It's all mine.





TOBACCO INDEX

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

SHORT HISTORY OF THE JEWS OF EINDHOVEN - PART TWO

Mr. Benedict takes on city hall.

[Like the preceding post, this is also a draft, and there may be changes in the future, when I am more alert and less caffeinated, and in consequence more sane and capable of writing proper English.]


INTRO
In part one (http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2006/03/short-history-of-jews-of-eindhoven.html) I described the first attempts of Jews to get legal residency in Eindhoven, from the first recorded Jewish resident, the butcher Benjamin Jacobs and his household in 1695, to Lazarus Benedict successfully bucking the old boy network that tried to keep the Jews out in 1772.
In this chapter, I shall go into the request of Elias Benedict to settle in Eindhoven in 1783.



GOOD BEHAVIOUR LETTERS AND GUARANTEE PAYMENTS

Before I do that, however, I should clarify that according to Dutch law at that time, anybody seeking legal residence in a town other than his birthplace was required to provide letters attesting to his character and morals ('ontlastbrieven'; letters in which the administration of the previous place of residence take responsibility for a person's good behaviour for a year), and in cases where those could not be readily produced, the town in question could require a "borg-som" - essentially a security deposit or guarantee sum ('acte van cautie'; rather like bail for criminals).

In the case mentioned in part one (Lazarus Benedict et familia), the city demanded fifteen hundred florins (three hundred per person), which was the standard and highest fee (at the discretion of officialdom, it could be lowered). At that time a master craftsman could expect to make around three hundred florins in a year. Clearly a burden intended to dissuade.


What made this particularly an issue was that in many cases the requirement was usually waived.

Protestants settling in the benighted south were either members of the ruling class being posted (temporarily, many of them hoped) in Eindhoven as bureaucrat-administrators or officers, or clearly out of their mind.

[Catholics were severely discouraged from traveling in any case, as well as legally restricted in a number of ways (Catholicism was outlawed for nearly three centuries). ]


NOTE: Jews were allowed freedom of worship, but it was up to the cities to decide whether they would allow any Jews in as residents - which was often opposed by the guilds, who jealously guarded mediaeval rights to exercise certain crafts and trades, and chose to exclude people of the wrong religion (including not only Jews, but Catholics, members of odd heretical sects, and branches of Calvinism which deviated from the norm).

[Note: the simplist definition of a guild is a group with a common religious purpose, who pay the worth or 'geld' to fund that purpose. Since earliest days, guilds have had a religious veneer. They also often served as the equivalent of a chevre kaddishe and a charitable fund for the widows and orphans of deceased members.]



EXCLUSION OF JEWS

The States General had strengthened the hand of officials who wanted to keep Jews out of the cities in North Brabant (then ruled as territory conquered but not liberated - Generaliteits Landen, or 'generality lands') by issuing a regulation that the borg-som and the proof of good behaviour was specifically applicable to Jews.

[This kind of turns your impression of tolerance in the Netherlands of the golden age and eighteenth century upside-down, doesn't it? No wonder my ancestors scooted to New Amsterdam in the seventeenth century!]



MR. ELIAS BENEDICT

Mr. Benedict had resided in Helmond for three decades, when in the year 1787 he decided to move to Eindhoven, where the Jewish community, though small, nevertheless represented a greater Hebrew collective than anywhere else in the Kempen region. To that end, he requested and got a letter from the city fathers of Helmond attesting to his law-abiding behaviour and good character, and thus made confident of his position, he applied for residency in Eindhoven. At which point he was rudely disabused. Payment of a guarantee of three hundred florins was demanded.

Now please remember that several other Jews had been allowed to settle in Eindhoven without paying this sum. It is likely that the three Benedict brothers (one of whom was also named Elias) living in the Fellenoord neighborhood of Woensel (abutting Eindhoven) in the 1760s and 1770s were cousins or kin of some kind. One of them (Lazarus Benedict) had in fact been allowed to settle in Eindhoven (in 1772) after the intervention of the Domains-Council (Eindhoven being a territory held by the Prince of Orange, hence ultimate authority resting with the Domains-Council), and without needing to pay the guarantee.


In addition to the obvious reason for denying a Jew residency (bigotry - you could've guessed that!), two other motives for obstructiveness are possible. The surname Benedict may have left a bad taste in the mouths of Eindhoven officials after Lazarus Benedict bested them in 1772, and the fact that Elias Benedict had lived in Helmond for thirty years, receiving letters attesting to his good behaviour and character, may have suggested a man of certain means, whose funds might need sharing.



MR. BENEDICT WRITES A LETTER

Elias Benedict went back to Helmond, and wrote a protest letter to the States General (the government) calling their attention to the situation, mentioning that others had not been thus burdened, and asserting that in fact the rules were being applied unfairly, and were unfair to begin with.

The letter is rather remarkable, being full of high-fallutin' language, and hard-to-read eighteenth century formalities and legalese. It is likely that Mr. Benedict had the help of a trained clerical person, possibly even one of the bureaucrats in Helmond.

In short, it accuses the officials in Eindhoven of being bigots, and not understanding the law. The exceptions to the rules which they permitted serve as indication of inequitable behaviour as regards his request for residency, the exceptions standardly allowed for members of the Calvinist faith argue for doing likewise for Jews (Catholics conveniently being considered prejudiced in favour of the Spanish enemy, even though the war against Spain had come to an end nearly two centuries before, whereas Jews shared that enemy with the Dutch Republic), and applying this requirement to him alone of all the Jews in that neck of the woods would be an unfair hardship.

He therefore requested that the States General instruct the officials in Eindhoven to cease and desist, so that he, his small housewife Rosina Samuels (no kidding, it really says small housewife - "klein huysvrouw"), and his grandson Hartog Benedict, as well as all other Jews domiciled in that part of the country be permitted to settle themselves without being required to provide an ontlast brief (good behaviour letter, see above) or acte van cautie (good behaviour security payment).



THE MAGISTRATE OF EINDHOVEN

The States General sent a copy of the letter to the office of the city magistrate in Eindhoven, requesting that they deal with the matter 'in the proper manner'.
Which the office of the city magistrate took to mean that they could safely ignore it, or in any case delay until Mr. Benedict gave up. Which they encouraged him to do, whenever he inquired about the matter.


At the end of May, Mr. Benedict again sent a letter to the States General, in which he expressed that he had really expected that the government and the office of the city magistrate would have dealt with the matter expeditiously and forthrightly, rather than causing him great inconvenience by their dawdling.
This resulted in the an official request to the office of the city magistrate to resolve the case within no more than fourteen days.

The reaction of the Eindhoven city government was to draft a formal letter, pointing out that being forced to admit Mr. Elias Benedict was counter to the official resolution of September 7, 1731, which stated that the regents of cities and towns in the Meijery of 's Hertoghenbosch ('Mayory'; more or less the prefecture of four quarters administered from Den Bosch, of which the Kempen is the southernmost quarter) could not be obligated to permit entry of people from elsewhere without the letters or payments.



PANIC AND SPEW

That the law was not applied equally in many cases, and that in this case it was clearly selective, established a precedent favourable to Mr. Benedict which forced the Eindhoven city government to scramble for other legal grounds to deny Mr. Elias Benedict's request.

In their official filing sent to the Hague, they offered that "most of the Jews in the Meijery were impoverished and burdensome, being of such a character and destructive nature that local negotiants (businessmen) and shopkeepers would be severely disadvantaged, the more so as Jews were given to deceiving both burghers (city dwellers) and landmannen (rural folk) by trickery (called 'tricheeren'), and would by their presence rob many trade's and craft's men of the opportunity to find lodgings, because Jews offered outrageous prices for quarters and so drove up rents.
And that was not all! Local burghers had 'murmured' against the Jews, and would prefer not to deal with them!
"

They also claimed that the substitute drossaerd (city legal functionary) had entirely without warrant permitted the other Jews to reside in Eindhoven, and, in that Jews were burdensome, they requested permission to deny Mr. Elias Benedict residency.

The tone of this letter is one of gibbering hysteria.

That may be why there is another letter inscribed in the daybook, in which the writers beg to inform the recipient (a Staten Generaal bureaucrat in the Hague) that they are "not in the least possessed of a fanatical hatred, but rather base their objections entirely on sober observation of the already resident Jews, and the knowledge that often suspicious persons lodge in Jewish houses, probably thieves and conmen; why, they had already dealt with one such! And were merely being cautious and sincere in seeking to prevent crimes and misdeeds in their city!"

[The 'one such' they had dealt with had been accused and expelled without any proof or evidence against him several years earlier. A doubtful case, to say the least, and hardly representative - one out of many.]



SMALL TRADERS IN THE COUNTRYSIDE

The city magistrate added to this his objections, which centered on the practise of Jewish merchants traveling throughout the countryside, bringing their wares to the customer's doorstep, instead of decently awaiting patronage behind a shop counter.

He neglected to mention that in the first place, many of those customers could neither afford city prices nor the time to travel to the metropolis, and in the second place, Jews were forbidden by the shopkeepers' guilds from opening stores.

In any case, it seems irrelevant, as Mr. Benedict was proposing to reside in the city - had he intended to wander around the countryside with a pack on his back, denying him residence within the walls would scarcely have hindered him.


In further correspondence with the Hague, it was asserted that Jews were rabble-rousers, disturbers of the peace, a worrisome presence (!), and that Jews were by definition unfair competition to decent citizens.



THE HAGUE RESPONDS

None of this convinced the bureaucrats in the Hague.

On the 25th. Of July 1787 the magistrate of Eindhoven was ordered to permit Mr. Benedict to reside in Eindhoven, without any further delay.

And without providing letters, and without paying a guarantee.


Not much is known of Mr. Elias Benedict afterwards, and it is not certain that he availed himself of the opportunity.

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Next episode: The Synagogue.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

SHORT HISTORY OF THE JEWS OF EINDHOVEN - PART ONE

The first settlement in the eighteenth century and the opposition of the city fathers.

[Note: this is more or less a draft at present - I hope to interpolate, and add links and notes. After dealing with the Eindhoven region I will post some stuff about Jews in Brabant and Flanders in the Burgundian age, and some stuff about the Jews of Naarden, and other things Dutch and Jewish. Perhaps also a list of Judeo-Dutch terms and expressions (a work still in progress). Suggestions, criticisms, and commentary are absolutely welcome.]


INTRO
In a comment on Lipmans blog (http://lipmans.blogspot.com/ see this posting: http://lipmans.blogspot.com/2006/03/yekkes-that-are-neither-neo-orthodox.html) I mentioned that I would re-read material about a number of things having to do with Dutch Jewry, particularly the Mediene Joden (provincial Jews) and the Jews of the Eindhoven region. This post will deal with the Jews of the Eindhoven region, and their attempts to legally reside in the city of Eindhoven during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.


THE KEMPEN

It should be mentioned that until fairly recent times there were few or no Jews in the Kempen region, of which Eindhoven is the major and only city.

The Kempen region is in the eastern part of the Netherlands province of North Brabant, with the Peel in Limburg to the east, the Breda area to the west, and the Kempenland in Belgian Limburg to the south. Eindhoven is more or less centrally located, about twenty kilometers north of the frontier. Eindhoven counts roughly two hundred thousand inhabitants. There are probably another hundred and fifty thousand people in the surrounding region, spread out over towns and villages of diverse origins (several dialect isoglosses cut through the region, and the area was the scene of much violence during the eighty years war against Spain).

Especially to be noted is that Jewish settlement in the region tended to skip villages inhabited by Teuten - traveling salesmen, oddjobbers, small merchants, and such like, who in the slow parts of the agricultural year would disperse over all of northwestern Europe as far as Sweden and Russia, touting their wares and their skills (hence the name 'Teuten').
Given that Jews often first entered the region as traveling sellers of small goods, it follows naturally that they would have scant benefit from settling among their competitors, and would be incentivized to avoid those villages.


BRIEF MENTION OF VALKENSWAARD

In this regard, I must mention Valkenswaard, one of the major Teuten-towns, where I lived from 1965 to 1978.
Before the war there were only a minute handful of Jews in the town, resentfully included in the Eindhoven Synagogue circuit (resentfully, because it prevented them from arranging services locally - and at a distance of ten kilometers the Eindhoven synagogue was not exactly the neighborhood shul for shabbes). After the war the number of Jews in Valkenswaard increased, as the town became a bedroom community for employees of Philips Electronics.
Evenso, Valkenswaard never developed a kehilla, and in contrast to some of the other villages in the area there were never any of the institutions or infrastructure that mark a thriving Jewish presence.

One can say that Valkenswaard was as unmarked by anti-Semitism as it was nearly unmarked by Jews.


THE CHURCH

Which brings me to the next thing that must be noted, namely that the rise in Jewish settlement partially coincided with the re-legalizing of the Catholic church and the return of ecclesiastical buildings to the church, whose organizations returned from their long exile in Ravenstein in the nineteenth century and set about rebuilding.

This almost inevitably meant an increase in religious bigotry aimed at Protestants (no longer the only legal version of Christianity) and Jews (not particularly privileged, but no longer absent either). The local church-fathers saw it as their mission to take back the fold, using sometimes underhanded means to assert dominance, while the Protestant clergy despised the locals and strove to maintain the privileged position of their transmigrant 'Ollander flock - bureaucrats, constables, tax-collectors, and such like.

All of this in an area whose most noticeable characteristic until the 1960's was poverty. The Kempen is sandy terrain and fen country, not particularly fertile, with no real resources other than the cheap labour of a desperate peasantry.

During the period when North Brabant was ruled as conquered territory (States Generality lands) the only official interest in the province was expressed via taxation and garrisons (nominally to protect the frontier against threats from the Southern Netherlands, later the French). One would be correct in assuming that the locals developed an almost instinctive distrust of outsiders, and a tendency to disregard the law. Plus a bellicose mindset.

Not a particularly promising area for Jewish settlement.

Which explains why many of the Jews who ended up here were wandering Poles (rondzwervende Polakken), rather than Amsterdam or Rotterdam Yidden.


BEGINNING OF THE YISHUV

The first Jews noted to have resided in Eindhoven were the butcher Benjamin Jacobs, his wife Sara, their maidservant Eva, Gompert-the-servant and Gompert-the-child (let us assume that the elder and younger Gompert most likely were not Jews) (*). This small household was permitted residency in the city of Eindhoven in 1695, and went bankrupt in 1697. Hardly a promising start.
(*) Note: Lipman mentions that Gompert was a common Jewish name at the time. Which I did not know. I thought it was Dutch, as I have seen it mostly in a Dutch context without the suggestion that the person so named was Jewish. Given the attitude of many at that time, it is of course more likely than not that the servants of Benjamin Jacobs and his spouse were of the same religion as their employers.
For the next fifty years no Jews officially lived in Eindhoven, though there were probably a handful who rented rooms and kept a low profile.

In 1761 Joseph Isaacq rented a dwelling, and by 1766 Salomon Levy, Israel Levy, Nathan Mendel, and Philip Lazarus (also known as Philip Valk), and their various dependents, had increased the community to fifteen people, despite a previously unregistered Jew named Meijer Mendel deciding to move to Veghel (he requested and received the essential letter attesting to orderly behaviour before he left).

The fifteen soon diminished, due to the tax practices of the Eindhoven magistrate, with Joseph Isaacq and Nathan Mendel registering a letter of complaint with the Prince of Orange, to little effect, and Salomon and Israel Levy (and their families - eight and four persons respectively) moving to Woensel.
[Note: Woensel is to the north of Eindhoven proper. It has some very lovely neighborhoods with trees and greenery, a small impossibly clean shopping center, older lower middle class neighborhoods which are have largely become a thriving red-light district, many Turks and North-African immigrants, and a reputation for criminal assaults and robbery. Still, as I said, it has its charms. My father lived there in the last decade of his life. In the late eighteenth century it was still legally a village, whereas Eindhoven, with scarcely more inhabitants, was a city, and dignified to boot. Go figger.]


Woensel at that time was where the Benedict brothers (Lazarus, Isaac, and Elias) lived, in the Fellenoord neighborhood, which more or less functioned as a Jewish neighborhood. Here is also where Salomon Levi ended up, and presumably Joseph Levi Abraham, who moved to Eindhoven in 1778. Also resident of the neighborhood were Hertog Moisis and family (8 people), 'the Jew Polak', and the 'Jewish master' (probably Heyman Moisis, who had been forced out of Eindhoven a few years before). Additionally mentioned on the Woensel rolls are 'Elske the Jewess', and a person merely noted down in the tax rolls as 'the Jew' living in Erp. There were probably a few more, but as they were too poor to pay taxes, they have not been noted down.


QUELLE CHUTZPAH!

In 1771 Lazarus Benedict petitioned to reside in Eindhoven, and audaciously requested admission to the status of 'poorter' (city citizen). After being told that this had met favourable consideration, he made preparations to leave Woensel, giving up his lease on his residence there. Only to be informed that despite favourable recommendations by the substitute drossaerd of Eindhoven, the city administration nevertheless demanded payment of a guarantee sum of fifteen hundred florins for himself, his wife, and his three children. A horrendous amount.

In desperation, Lazarus Benedict sent a plea-letter to the Prince (Eindhoven belonged to the domains of the house of Orange). The Prince's Domain-Council determined that Lazarus Benedict should be permitted to dwell in Eindhoven while awaiting a formal decision. The residency request was sent back to the Eindhoven regents, who denied the request, considering the settlement of Jews extremely ill-advised, and in their estimation quite probably disastrous for the local poor, who would be much affected adversely, as a Jewish presence was "both pernicious and ruinous" ('pernicieus en ruineus').

At this point Ardesch, one of the councilors of the Prince, decided to investigate the issue personally and traveled to Eindhoven, which resulted in the Prince's Domain-Council formally deciding that no ifs ands or buts the Jews should be permitted residency and equal treatment. As of October first 1772, Lazarus Benedict, his wife, and three children were legally residents of Eindhoven.

One would think that the residency issue would end here. But no. In 1777 another Jew dared to request legally residency! The civic government tried to interpret the decision of 1772 in such a manner as to allow the demand of guarantee payments and approval letters, and all the other red-tape they deemed necessary.
The Domain-Council had to explain to them that Jews who had not run afoul of the law could not be refused residency, or forced to pay guarantee fees or provide approval letters. Once more the gate swung open.

By 1783 the civic government became feisty again, and denied the request of Elias Benedict of Helmond to live in the city.

Mr. Benedict did not take this lying down.
About which I will write in the next installment.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

JOHN ASHCROFT

A friend sent me an e-mail, which I cannot resist posting, lock stock and barrel.

"I just heard that our former Atty-Gen'l John Ashcroft is becoming a lobbyist.

Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has joined the ranks of the nation's lobbyists
where, through the offices of The Ashcroft Group, he will be renting his self-described "integrity" to any client able to pony up the cash. In particular, Ashcroft plans to use his years of experience prosecuting corporate misconduct…to help misbehaving corporations avoid prosecution. Presumably, it’s what Jesus would do."

The attached link leads to an article in the NYT.
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/17/politics/17ashcroft.html


From which an interesting quote:
""...Clients would call in an individual who has a reputation for the highest level of integrity," he said in an interview in his office. "Those who have been in government should not be forbidden from helping people deal with government, which is what I see myself doing." In the hourlong interview, Mr. Ashcroft used the word "integrity" scores of times. "

Which is followed by:
"...One of Mr. Ashcroft's newest clients is ChoicePoint, a broker of consumer data that is increasingly being used by the government to keep tabs on people within the United States. The company received millions of dollars in contracts from the Justice Department under Mr. Ashcroft as part of the war on terror and has now hired him to find more.
"The Ashcroft Group contacted us and we initiated a relationship," said Chuck Jones, a ChoicePoint spokesman. "He's got a lot of knowledge that could benefit ChoicePoint.""



One has to wonder: was there an 'advantageous' relationship before Ashcroft left the Justice Department? While I would hazard that that is unlikely, there is no disputing that there is one now.

I'm not entirely sure how having insiders with pull getting great deals for their corporate clients benefits the people. But we no longer have government of the people, by the people, for the people. We have government for those who can pay, whether it is by contributing to campaign coffers (effectively pre-buying influence, before the crook is even in office), or by simply hiring expensive clout-meisters.

This may explain why the Halliburton presidency will go down in history as one of the worst administrations ever, surpassing even the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant.

Certainly it is one of the most expensive presidencies. And that's merely the price-tag up-front, not the long-term damage which still needs to be paid for.


And lastly:
"...To maintain his conservative ties, Mr. Ashcroft signed up as a visiting law professor at Regent University, a Christian graduate school founded by Pat Robertson, the political evangelical broadcaster. "

I normally do not associate the idea of 'integrity' with either 'Christian' OR 'evangelical'. Associating with Pat Robertson is in fact what someone with integrity should not do.

Oh well...., at least neither gentleman is a bastard.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

ALGEMEEN DAGBLAD READERS

One of the beautiful things of the modern age is that, via internet, I can keep up with how the folks back in the Netherlands think, speak, and write.


Let me also point out that doing so via the internet is a lot more comfortable than doing it live - I remember when being an American in Europe was an invitation to be harangued by some pustule whose daddy was a collaborator, or to be insulted by some right-thinking blinkered peasant who was outraged by the VietNam war. Or to see all Americans with out exception excoriated on a daily basis, in the press and in demonstrations on the streets of European cities.

Since the late sixties, Europeans have gotten kinda pissy about those Yanks.
And sanctimonious.



Which I frequently point out to my Dutch-speaking friends.

I have not yet forgiven the good people whose language I speak from making my childhood surreal. And vivid.

Though I appreciate their literature.

Dutch has an ear-feel entirely its own, and a flavour that cannot be reproduced in any other language.



A fine language, Dutch. And a great literature.

But sweet Cheesewhiz, what a bunch of blisters those kaaskoppen can be!


As reading the commentaries posted underneath an article about the arrest of the rodef Ahmed Saadat in the Algemeen Dagblad once again proved.


Here's one stellar example of an arrogant know-it-all anti-Semitic Dutchman:
"Het zoveelste bewijs dat Israel helemaal niet uit is op vrede. Dat woord kennen ze in dat schurkenland niet. Een laffe daad van een lafhartig volk ! Met deze daad heeft Israel wederom aangetoond geen democatisch land te zijn. Wie in dat fabeltje nog waarde en geloof hecht, verklaar ik voor gek."
---Windjes - Rotterdam - 14/03/06 - 17:25:56

[Translation: 'The so-many-eth proof that Israel is absolutely not interested in peace. They don't even know the word in that gangster country. The cowardly deed of a cowardly people! With this deed, Israel once again shows itself to be an undemocratic country. Whoever still believes that fable, I declare is meshugge.']

What's especially interesting about this comment is that the Netherlands was not particularly courageous during world war two - it took the Germans only three days to roll all over the place, and except for the huge number of collaborators, the place was remarkably quiet for the next five years.

In 1942 the Japs attacked in the Pacific, and despite having had years to prepare, Dutch defenses in the Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia) crumbled like rotten wood - with many military officers fleeing to Australia rather than remaining at their posts with their men. I believe that in their panic, they were the first people ever to hijack planes - there were several instances of Dutch officers commandeering aircraft at gunpoint in their mad rush to preserve their own hides and get to safety in Australia.


One might shper from this that some cheeseheads have a different definition of cowardice than you or I.

And given that in schoolyard fights they act like a vicious mob when attacking, and have no concept whatsoever of a fair one-on-one scrum, it would be correct to shper thus.


. . .

Here's another fine example of a know-it-all Dutch venombag - not even an exceptional one either.
"Wat een verschrikkelijk laffe daad van Israel. Wanneer grijpt de wereld nu eens in. Gek hé dat de Pallestijnen wraak nemen. Zij vechten voor hun vrijheid, alleen Israel heeft lak aan alle mensenrechten. Wat een verschrikkelijk volk is dat, ik hoop van harte dat de Pallestijnen hun rechtmatige land allemaal terug krijgen. Zij zijn geen terroristen maar vrijheidsstrijders en Israel is de bezetter. Groot Brittanië en de VS, wisten van deze laffe daad en hebben hieraan meegewerkt, anders is het wel erg toevallig dat ze er vlak voor vertrokken."
---Cor - nieuwkoop - 14/03/06 - 15:24:51

[Translation: 'What a horribly cowardly deed of Israel. When will the world finally intervene? Odd, eh, that the Palestinians take revenge - they're fighting for their freedom, but Israel disregards all human rights. What a despicable people they are, I hope with all my heart that the Palestinians get their rightful land back entirely; they aren't terrorists but freedom fighters and Israel is the occupier. Great Britain and the US knew of this dastardly deed and aided in perpetrating it.... or it's a remarkable coincidence that they left right before it happened.']

When I checked the website of the Algemeen Dagblad, the anti-Israel comments dominated.
As, indeed, they often do.

It could be thought, perhaps, that the politically correct and ever-so progressive sonei-Yisrael side is more likely to vent their bile on such sites, and do not represent the majority.


But I'm inclined to doubt that. I've lived there.
It's the opinionated loudmouths who dominate Dutch public discourse, and those who disagree usually find it wiser to keep quiet and pretend they don't know from Jack.
As they did during World War II - remember, almost everyone the Nazis killed was turned in by a countryman, and at the time no one said anything.
The Dutch mostly didn't deal with their collaborators until the allies had safely won, and even then, they "overlooked" too damn many for it to be coincidental (for which the parents of several of my classmates were living proof).


Yes, there are decent Dutchmen.

Many have emigrated to Canada, the U.S., Australia, or New Zealand.

And there are still a few left in the Netherlands.
As there always will be.


It's just such a pity they will never be the majority (even of Dutch journalists - few of them dare disagree with anybody, let alone the lowest common denominator).
[Yep, I'm also critical of the Dutch press. When writing about Israel, they almost invariably paint the Arabs as victims and the Israelis as bullies. It's a common failing of people from pissant unimportant little kak-hole countries to always take the side of the underdog. Dutch journalists do not have the originality it takes to realize that sometimes the underdog is deservedly the underdog. ]



--- - --- - --- - --- - --- - --- - ---

Of course, we voted for Bush.
Twice.
So we shouldn't think ourselves any better.

We too have a majority of fools.

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Monday, March 13, 2006

AAAAARGHHH! (Lipman, is that the correct spelling?)

All of a sudden it hit me that because of Purim, this week will be thin as far as blog-reading is concerned.

Purim starts tonight.

Which means that some of you already left work before I started typing this, others are on your way out the door with your gr*ggrs and your single-malts or bottles of prune-jack (Slivovicz). And some of you didn't even come back from lunch - much like some others won't this Friday.

What this means is that you won't be blogging tonight, or even tomorrow, and most of Wednesday. Either jollification or hangover will intervene.

Yes, I COULD try to dominate the discourse, as few of you will be in a position to compete.
On the other hand, I could veer off the beaten track into some of the other blogs.....


If any of you have any suggestions about blogs to read, I'd love to see them.
Subjects that particularly interest me: Torah commentary destressing the literal approach, Yiddish-Yeshivish-Teitsmerish, Indonesian food, East-Asian languages. And tons of other stuff.

Feel free to shamelessly promote your own blog, or that of a friend. Surprise me.

Friday, March 10, 2006

NEW BOOK

I really should clean up my apartment.

I realized this the other day when I came home, pleased as punch about a new book (whenever I'm blueish I buy reading material), and, while looking for the last tin of Sasieni Balkan Mixture, found the EXACT SAME BOOK!



The situation is this: near my chair in the tv room are several stacks containing books, magazines, printouts of news articles, and various other things. It's not that there are no bookshelves in the apartment - there are many shelves.

In the tv room there are thirty-three shelves and a stack of plastic boxes that can be used for shelving. Eight of the shelves have books placed in two rows, stacked flat, occupying the entire space between the shelf on which they are placed and the next shelf up.

Three of the shelves are Judaic material, with Japanese style tea bowls in front of the shelf containing Dutch Judaica, a set of Rashi and several tins of tobacco in front of various translations of Tanach, and more tea-bowls plus bronze lizards and a frog in front of miscellaneous Judaica (there is more Judaica in the main room on my desk, and in the shelves on top of the desk - Sforno, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, The Tur, Tanya, and much miscellaneous reading material; the translated Ramban is on the second bedside table in front of the bookshelf with files, a blue crackly glazed koro (incense burner) and the old Macintosh, as well as a statue of Zhong Kuei).

Most of the other shelves in the tv room contain Indian History, Sinitica and linguistics, and a fine collection of National Geographic magazines (every issue between 1931 and 1978 which has pictures of tropical palm trees - don't ask).
Plus Marguerite Yourcenar (pseudonym of Belgian born novelist Marguerite Cleenewerck de Crayencour, 1903 - 1987), Vladimir Nabokov, Mary Renault (The King Must Die, The Persian Boy, Greek Funeral Games, Fire From Heaven, The Mask of Apollo, and The Praise Singer - one of her best works) and some splendid Dutch poetry by a gentleman with unfortunate procreative preferences.

There are at least three and a half shelves of Dutch East Indies material (history, anthropology and ethnography, plus literature by Indies Dutch writers), double stacked and tightly packed.

Four upper shelves of miscellaneous languages, mostly dictionaries.
But also Pānini's Astadhyayi, and some textbooks on native law (adat) written for the Dutch East Indies administration during the last half century of empire.

The top shelves all have pottery, Vladimir Nabokov, Indonesian objets d'art, and doodads.

All of Shakespeare is somewhere.

[There are more books under the chair (some South East Asian cooking, some reference), and under the table. Plus in and in front of the tv cabinet (Chinese Philosophy, miscellaneous literature, O'Henry, Romesh Gunesekera), and on the floor in front of two bookcases (reference, Chinese history, and Edward Gorey).
I think Remembrance of Things Past is also there - I never finished reading it.
Johan Fabricius (copies of almost everything he ever wrote, of which 'Scheepsjongens Van Bontekoe' and 'De Grote Geus' are probably his best known works, although 'De Heilige Paarden' ('The Sacred Horses' - about the resistance of native chiefs on the island of Sumba to Dutch colonial rule, written in 1959) is arguably his best work) and poet-playwright Gerbrand Andriaenszoon Brederode (Dutch Golden age, distant relative of the main character in Fabricius' 'De Grote Geus'; his works are available in editions from Gorcum, Martinus Nijhoff, and Tjeenk Willink, as well as second hand from a variety of other publishers) are in the bookshelves opposite my desk in the other room. Along with trashy romances, detective fiction, and oddities. Next to those shelves are other Dutch literature, Chinese literature, Mediaeval History, Tropical Diseases, and fourhundred cookbooks - more or less. I like cookbooks. ]


And, everywhere, pipe tobacco.

The reason for the tobacco is simple: California will probably double the tax on tobacco products within twelve months, that being the gist of a proposition which will be on the ballot this year.
Wherefore I'm stockpiling. I have enough pipe tobacco to last four and a half years at present rate of consumption (actually 247 weeks), and am aiming for a decade's worth.
After that I'll probably have to move to Wyoming or Arkansas - some place where they have no laws, there is no civilization, everybody has guns, and tobacco is not taxed.


So, rooting around where last I saw the Sasieni Balkan Mixture (which, in mittn drinnen, is the best substitute of The Balkan Sobranie Mixture that has been made since Balkan Sobranie went out of business over a decade ago - Sasieni has since also disappeared), I found a brand new copy of the SAME EXACT BOOK!


It was not anywhere near the Sasieni Balkan Mixture.

I ended up smoking Dunhill's London Mixture instead.


------- --- ------- --- -------


Note regarding pipe tobaccos: A dozen tins of G.L. Pease's Kensington Mixture, a dozen tins of G.L. Pease's Blackpoint Mixture, plus several tins of G.L. Pease's Abingdon, Samarra, Raven's Wing, and Charing Cross mixtures.

Altogether a score of Samuel Gawith tobaccos, mostly the 1792 Flake - and I'm not even a Virginia smoker (it's the discreet Tonquin oil casing - a very old-fashioned aroma, quite pleasing).

A dozen tins of Dunhill tobacco, mostly the London Mixture (of which I am very fond).

A dozen large tins (hundred grammes) of McClelland tobacco, mostly Bombay Extra, but also the Christmas and Anniversary blends. About two dozen other tins of McClelland tobaccos, all with the exception of two of them medium Balkan style mixtures.

Frog Morton, every type, opened tins and unopened reserves.

A score of Bill Bailey's Balkan Blend, a few tins of Gawith Hoggarth Balkan Mixture, about two dozen tins of a variety of tobaccos bought for sampling purposes (most half finished or more). Plus some odds and ends
.

And, somewhere, the last tin of Sasieni Balkan Mixture. Which remains missing. It was a two-hundred gramme tin.


------- --- ------- --- -------

Further note re pipe tobaccos: Next month I will place orders for ten of each: Dunhill London Mixture, Bill Bailey's Balkan Blend, and Gawith Hoggarth's Balkan Mixture.
After that, I'll probably work on increasing my supplyof McClelland tobaccos, including the Frog Morton blends, the Syrian Latakia Mixtures, and the 221B series, as well as the 'personal reserve' (Bombay Extra, inter alia).

Even further note: There are as yet no tins of tobacco in her room, but there are lots of books and book-shelves there. I am not entirely sure what she reads.

Penultimate note: Lum, Ranma 1/2, Inuyasha, Sci-Fi, and Thai cooking are under my bed. Plus a few volumes of Dutch poetry. And some Brederode.

Final note: The several stacks of books in, on, and around the hallway table are hers. The stacks along the wall to the bathroom are mine. I'll sort them eventually. Not now.




TOBACCO INDEX


==========================================================================
NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
LETTER BOX.
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.
==========================================================================

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NETUREI KARTA

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One of the things Europeans (including the Dutch, and therefore also myself, because though my folks have been in the US since before 1635, I am of New York Dutch ancestry, a fluent Dutch speaker, and identify myself as 'Dutch American') have to wrestle with, is their collective role during world war two. [Basically, the sins of the tribe reflect on the individual.]
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One can divide Gentile Europeans under the Nazis into five groups:
Those opposed, who by their opposition were in danger;
Those opposed whose opposition was mostly under the radar;
Those favourably inclined;
Those who actively collaborated;
And then the great group in the centre - those rigidly paralyzed by apathy who neither knew the others nor engaged them.
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The quiescence of most Europeans during the Nazi regime falls into that last category.
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During the war, the Nazis and their collaborators actively sought to extinguish those who resisted, and terrorize those who might give the resistance aid and succour. Those who opposed in their hearts but not in their actions, of course took note, and while their opposition was praiseworthy, by their quivering acquiescence they were also responsible for the crimes of the Nazi regime.
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After the war the active collaborators were mostly sought out (mostly, because if there were few or none to identify them and their crimes, they often escaped unpunished), the attitudes of the favourably inclined were castigated (schoolyard bullies often get whacked, but their helpers and enablers often escape vengeance), and the surviving victims were to a large extent ignored (Jew and Gentile alike), because in order for societies to heal they must be able to relativize trauma.
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Not that there's anything right with that.
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[As might have been said on Seinfeld]
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I mention all of this to highlight the differences between active opposition, passive opposition, apathy, passive fellow-traveling, and active collaboration.
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What must we make of Neturei Karta?
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This morning, both the JROD mailing list and the weekly newsletter from Joods Nederland mention that Neturei Karta is in Teheran lecking the madman Ahmedinejad's achterend.
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[Neturei Karta also recently sent Hamas congratulations on their election victory and expressed hopes for the success of the Islamicist endeavor to destroy Israel bimheira biyameinu.]
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Now, a slight sidetrack. Whenever someone tells a racist joke, they will often try to brush off distaste by saying "I heard this from a ......", where the dot dot dots represent a member of the group who are the target of the joke. Thus attempting to relativize their offense in relaying the joke.
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But it doesn't matter who told the joke or who retells it - the joke is wrong because of its content. The teller is merely the messenger, not the message, and the message is offense.
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When there is no justification for the message, someone who voluntarily becomes the messenger is choosing to identify with the offensive aspect of the message - they tell the joke because it is offensive, not because it is funny.
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In such cases, the joke becomes relativized, but the role of the messenger is accentuated.
They are the offender, and they are the offense.
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So, what must we make of Neturei Karta?
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Well, clearly Neturei Karta are active collaborators.
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And like the tellers of offensive jokes, the sonei-yisroel side will cite them ad nauseum to justify their point of view, and to show that they actually "are not anti-Semitic, even some Jews hate Israel, and in any case it is okay to oppose Zionism".
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Surely you know this sentence: "Some of my BEST friends are black!"?
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Just as the joke prefaced by saying "I heard this from a ......", this too is an attempt to relativize.
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Ineffectively, it says "don't look at me, it was one of YOU guys - him you should blame ("and really, I am so much less blameworthy, because I have 'perspective' or broadmindedness or I am merely saying what he told me to say - and in any case he is worse than I am").
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Which is rather like admitting that you bought the gun, bought the bullets, bought the coffin and the getaway car, invited the victim over, and told Bubba what the victim looked like and when he would be there - but Bubba is the murderer, hang him.
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There were collaborators in Europe and Uncle Toms in the US. There were black men in the Confederate Army and traitors in the north. Many average Chinese took part in the brutalities of the Cultural Revolution. Russians turned in their relatives to Stalin's secret police. East-Germans collected rewards for betraying their neighbors.
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Brutal regimes standardly make use of informers and willing executioners.
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And the perpetrators of the Cambodian horrors, who have largely gone unpunished, were once enthusiastically cheered on by many fervent anti-Imperialists in Europe and the United States.
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Neturei Karta are not just opposed to Israel - they actively collaborate with organizations who are working to destroy Israel and wipe her off the map.
They are the Henning Kloppers, NSB members, and willing volunteers from occupied Europe who joined the SS.
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They are the acme of odium.
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Understandable, then, that they have become the pet-Jews of Hamas and Ahmedinejad.
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For civilized people, Neturei Karta are outcastes.
As are Neturei Karta's allies.
Those who speak approvingly of them are pollution.
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Especially those who would use Neturei Karta to claim perspective and broadmindedness.
Or the fervent "anti-Imperialists" who enthusiastically cheer them on.
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--- - --- - --- - --- - ---
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Note for non-Jewish readers: Neturei Karta's opposition to the state of Israel is based on the reasoning that a secular state in the land will delay the coming of the Messiah. So from Neturei Karta's point of view, first Israel must be destroyed. Only then will the Tishbite bring us the son of David.
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They are not the only ones who, because of Messianic reasoning, oppose the state of Israel.
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But they are the only ones who actively seek out the company of gangsters and murderers, and actively aid and abet them.
The great thing about freedom of speech is that it allows people like these to put themselves beyond the pale, and by their actions make themselves untouchable. They redefine filth, and make themselves the very definition of it. And we must treat them accordingly.
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Monday, March 06, 2006

ON BEING

Bereishis, psook 41:9 "vayedaber sar hamashkim et-Paro, lemor 'et-chata'ai ani mazkir hayom'" (then spoke the chief steward to Pharaoh, saying 'I make mention of my sins today...').


In 1999, when I was in England, I had a glass of beer at a pub (that being something many visitors to England do).

While there, I overheard another patron with a very plummy uppercrustian way of speaking and an authoritative 'I-know-what-I'm-talking-about manner' say the following "Oh, Americans..., Americans have no taste whatsoever".

It struck me as odd at the time, because the gentleman in question was wearing a sportscoat with a plaid pattern loud enough and ghastly enough that even Ronald Reagan would not have been caught dead wearing it - and Ronnie was no stranger to bad clothing, you will recall.

There was a disconnect between the coat and the accent. As I said, VERY uppercrustian.

A while later I ended up in conversation with him, and when, after talking for nearly half an hour he found out that I was American, he said "Oh but you can't be an American! You talk like a civilized person!".

From his point of view, that was probably a compliment.

[The same thing happens in the Netherlands..., because I speak Dutch with a nice civilized Den Haag accent. It flabberghasts people when they find out I lived in North Brabant (home to goofy dialects and odd accents), and am not even a Dutchman to begin with.]


I mention this for a particular reason. And that is, that without giving it much thought, I may have been guilty of both supressio veri and suggestio falsi.

Specifically, you may have jumped to the conclusion that I am Jewish.


Which is not the case.
I was not born Jewish, I have not converted, and I do not intend to convert.


Conversion might make some sense if there was something to convert away from, such as Christianity or daemon-worship (and no, they're not quite the same).
But I do not belong to any creed or cultic grouping, and am perfectly happy not joining up with anybody, as I am not social enough to feel comfortable within a community of the faithful.
I am also too much of a cynic to fully believe in anything.

I see the constant tension between wanting desperately to believe, and refusing to be convinced, as the one thing absolutely necessary for religious faith. The very act of converting would demand that I trade faith for certainty.

Or, if you will, exchange hope for gnosticism (and a warm, gooshy feeling).


The GodolHador says "Unlike DovBear, a practicing Christian, I do believe in Judaism and Torah Min Hashmayim, though I think some of the details are a little murky."
[from : Torah Min Hashamayim, again! http://godolhador.blogspot.com/#114165449333838552 ]

Disregarding the snarky comment about DovBear, I find myself emunah-wise in between DovBear and GodolHador - but with a generous measure of Mis-nagid's point-of-view.

Please note that none of these three is a Bahble-thumpin' Baptist, and draw your own conclusions.


I'll be glad to attempt to answer any questions you might have, but as I never considered non-affiliation to be my most significant characteristic, or even particularly important (I do not define myself by my religion or lack thereof, even though I am seriously glad that I am not a Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, Mormon, or Muslim), I am rather hoping that you won't make a big-deal of it.



[There should be a bracha: "Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha olam, shelo asani Catholic, ve lo asani Lutheran, Calvinist, Mormon, Muslim.... ]

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Why didn't I mention this before?

Well, I didn't think it was that important, as I am not in the habit of qualifying my statements with a reference to my beliefs, personal philosophy, or ethnicity - either what I say stands on its own merit, or fails and falls by its own inherent goofiness.

Also, I kinda thought it obvious that I was a heretic.

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Friday, March 03, 2006

DEVIOUSLY ANTI-SOCIAL

There are times when I'm absolutely convinced that I'm a social creature. And there are times when I'm more inclined to the opposite view. This is one of those times when I neither feel particularly adept at being a social creature, nor am I able to see much value to the pretense.

When you think about it, that is a very contradictory idea.

Man is, by instinct, a social animal. And mankind, out of all the social animals, has the best tool for interaction with others of the herd at his disposal: LANGUAGE.


Which, of course, I am using to write this, and you are using to read this.


Though I will not claim to be a gifted writer, I do flatter myself that I have a glib ability for language.
Just not the socializing inherent therein. I have scant social talent.


I am not good at being social and actually interacting with others. In bars and at parties, I am uncomfortable if required to converse with strangers (I dislike crowds of three or more), and even when surrounded by friends and coworkers I prefer to remain somewhat on the sidelines, listening, but not really part of the general conversation.
One on one conversations with another person I know well and like being the exception.
Though I have a regrettable tendency to talk your ear off.


I like corners, and nearly empty rooms.
Barring that, a seat with my back to the wall, out of the direct line of sight.
I'm really not social.


So at this point, I have to ask myself why I blog?


Well, partly for the presumed interaction - I create the text, and you the reader make it come alive, and leave your comments to let me know what you thought and that you were here.
And when I read the blogs of others, the same thing happens. It's a one on one conversation in a way. Like I suspect most bloggers, I like it when others leave comments here, and I like it when I have left a comment elsewhere and someone else reacts to that. Part of the deal is that we read each-others' texts, and provide feedback. Reacting and making noise lets us know that we aren't just talking to ourselves.


Even though it is far from actual real-life interaction, it has an attractive glitter and we see what looks like a human face through the fog, what seems a partial mirror-image of ourselves.


Now that last part is the dangerous part. The devious part, if you will. Because it may fool us into thinking we know more about the other person than we actually do, and it may trick us into believing that real social interaction is taking place. We may also end up believing that, warts and all, we have much in common and have a virtual community.

Which we don't have. Not a community.
It's more like a college faculty.
Except for the warts - we've got the warts.


We are the "experts" on something, we acknowledge each other's expertise, but our real and significant interactions are actually with the often textless outside world.
Which knows more than just one facet of our persona. But in no way recognizes our expertise (perhaps, because like the blogsphere itself, that expertise is only virtual, and only exists within the context of the blog).

We've only come together because of an artificial environment, and we're not really talking with each other. We're just saying our piece, and spouting odd bits of data.


What I'm saying is, I don't really know you, and you don't really know me. Much as we appreciate what we see reflected in each other's texts, or sense the sparkly bits of each other's personalities, we don't really know each other. The interface of the internet has fooled us.


I am learning that sometimes it is better to not actually know too much about the reader. Remember, I said I wasn't very socially talented, and there is something devious about the bloggish world.


I am probably not what you think I am. I'm not sure I can deal with your reaction when you find out, though. I'll probably assume that I've let you down, and feel guilty. Which is a completely ridiculous thing, because this isn't the real world, and anything resembling social success on the internet should not substitute for actual social interaction.



I don't know why I blog.
Presumably a few people read this stuff - some even voluntarily. But I don't know that, I really can't hear you breathing out there, much as I strain my ears in your direction (it probably doesn't help that I'm slightly deaf...., but that's assuming that you are actually breathing).
I sometimes think that the only reason some people read me is because I read them. Which is probably accurate. The give and take of comments on blogs is a friendly and relatively harmless interaction, a pretense at social vibrancy, and like all of such things, it requires a fair measure of requittancy. And, gallantly, here you are. For which I'm grateful.


But I shouldn't let it fool me into thinking that I'm social. I really should know better by now.


A blog is much like a mask - a pretty pink mask, easy on the eyes, but nevertheless a mask. Something held in front to hide one's face.
[One still runs the danger of getting slapped - it's only a mask. Not a shield.]


At least it's better than sitting out back with a rifle shooting varmints.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

NOT STRICTLY REALITY BASED EMUNAH

[Actually, if it makes you feel better, you may call it 'meta-reality based emunah'.]


Back in early January, when I said that I cruised through the various shtarke denker blogs for material to steal, Mis-naged smilingly called me a "polite thief".

Which is a complement.


So, continuing that tradition of polite stealing, I am lifting some good stuff from the Godolhador ( http://godolhador.blogspot.com/ ) and pasting it below.

But remember, the Godolhador wrote it, and deserves the credit.

And I am very grateful that he wrote it, and posted it somewhere where I could grab it and paste it. Thank you. You are one of my daily reads, by the way.


It's from 'Ten Levels of Torah MinHashamayim Pop Quiz ', which was Divinely Inspired today. http://godolhador.blogspot.com/#114131950817001880

He posed it as a quiz, I'm posting it as an easy (though incomplete) reference to "not strictly reality based" Judaism.



NINE KINDS OF 'NOT-STRICTLY-REALITY-BASED EMUNAH'
[I invite Mis-naged to pose an alternative name.]

Kaarite
Everything in the Torah is literally true, and was dictated by God to Moshe word for word.


RW Ultra Orthodox
Everything in the Torah is literally true, except when darshened otherwise by Pharisse Rabbis, and was dictated by God to Moshe word for word.


LW Ultra Orthodox
Everything in the Torah is literally true, except when darshened otherwise by Pharisse Rabbis, or when it conflicts with Science and reason, in which case it can be darshened a little bit not literally, but only if famous Rishonim or Acharonim or Gedolim of previous eras said so, and it was dictated by God to Moshe word for word.


RW Modern Orthodox
Everything in the Torah is literally true, except when darshened otherwise by Pharisse Rabbis, or when it conflicts with Science and reason, in which case it can be darshened a little bit not literally, but only if famous Rishonim or Acharonim or Gedolim of previous eras said so, or if MO Gedolim of this era say so, and it was dictated by God to Moshe word for word, though some of it could have also been previously written in scrolls by the Avos and then included by God.


LW Modern Orthodox
Everything in the Torah is literally true, except when darshened otherwise by Pharisse Rabbis, or when it conflicts with Science, History and reason, in which case it can be darshened not literally, but only if famous Rishonim or Acharonim or Gedolim of previous eras said so, or even if MO Gedolim of this era say so, or even if non Orthodox scholars say so, but only if it doesn’t destroy any fundamental values of Judaism, also it was dictated by God to Moshe word for word, though some of it could have also been previously written in scrolls by the Avos.


RW Conservative
Everything in the Torah is literally true, except when darshened otherwise by Pharisse Rabbis, or when it conflicts with Science, History, Archeology and reason, in which case it can be darshened not literally, but only if famous Rishonim or Acharonim or Gedolim of previous eras said so, or even if MO Gedolim of this era say so, or even if non Orthodox scholars say so, but only if it doesn’t destroy any fundamental values of Judaism, also it was dictated by God to Moshe word for word, though some of it could have also been previously written in scrolls by the Avos, and some of it could have gotten messed up since so that what we have today isn’t really the original.


LW Conservative
The Torah is man’s account of Divine Revelation. Where the stories are plausible, they happened. Where they are not plausible, they probably didn’t. Or else they are exaggerated. Sinai happened, since there’s no evidence to say it didn’t. But everything else is debatable.


Reform
The bible was written by man. It is sacred, but mythical literature. Sinai probably didn’t happen, nor did many of the other stories. But it is a great document none the less, and represents mans striving for the infinite.


Skeptic
The bible is mythological literature. No different than any other ANE text such as the enumah elish. Worth studying though as it contains some influential ideas.Level 10 - Militant AtheistThe bible is immoral and worse. One of the most dangerous books ever produced. A load of superstitious bunk.


--- - --- - --- - --- - ---

Anyway, I encourage y'all to cruise into the Godolhador's blog, for some interesting stuff about religion, emunah, modern day Judaism, theology, and the occasional heated argument with (among many others) Dovbear and Mis-naged. Sometimes sparks fly. Just sit back and enjoy the show.

Godolhador: http://godolhador.blogspot.com/
Dovbear:http://dovbear.blogspot.com/
Mis-naged: No blog at present. But, imirtzeshem.....

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

SHEITEL SHEITEL SHEITEL, I MADE YOU OUT OF CLAY!

Many Hhareidi women, after marriage, wear a sheitel.

Others wear snoods. Which are, almost entirely without exception, immodestly ugly.


What, I hear my readers ask, in heaven's name, is a sheitel?


SHEITELS are wigs; expensive wigs. Sometimes wigs that rival snoods for uglier than a monkey's tuchus ghastly.


The best are made with real human hair (low to medium four figures), inferior ones with heavens knows what (as cheap as a few hundred).
No matter the expense, the effect is twixt old-country dowdy and New Jersey gangster moll stylish, wow zesty mamesh.


HODU HAIR

There has recently been a groise machloikes over sheitels made with hair from India.

The problem was that the hair (either all, or three symbolic tufts) was shorn from Hindu women at religious ceremonies - don’t ask, I haven’t a clue, I’m a chochemerd tatenyu, not a pandit.
But it had to do with idolatrous purification rituals, and temple profits from the sale of the hair, and thus reeked of avodah zara (strange service, hence idolatry).

It is issur to partake of, share in, or in fact have anything to do with idolatry. Especially monetarily.


Why is hair from India used in wigs?


The two main sources of hair used in wigs and hairpieces are Europe and India. The desirability of Indian temple-cut hair lay in the length, strength, and alignment.

Hair that is aligned (that has all its cuticles pointing in the same direction – called Remy hair) can be used for high quality wigs that have a natural look, whereas hair that is not aligned will need to be chemically stripped of the cuticle layer to keep it from becoming tangled.

[Note: in order to dye hair, it has to be stripped and bleached; this is never done to Remy hair. ]


Keeping hair aligned is done by tying it with ribbons prior to cutting; this was in fact customary at the temple. The hair was then sold, and the money benefited the idol served at that temple.

Aligned hair is more expensive than stripped hair, and is used for better wigs, whereas stripped hair is often also chemically bleached, dyed, and conditioned.


So the problem is this: if your sheitel is glossy, black and expensive, it probably is made of Indian Remy hair. If it is any other colour but did not cost an arm and a leg, it nevertheless also may be made of Indian hair.


Is all hair from India suspect?

Only ten percent (more or less) of the hair purchased from India comes from the temple in question (Tirumala). Because a much larger percentage of Remy hair from India is temple hair, it might be argued that a wig made from dyed hair (remember, Remy hair is not dyed) should contain far less temple hair. But there is no way of telling – a sheitel of dyed hair could be all temple hair, because not all temple hair is Remy.

In the same way that one can not assume that a piece of meat is kosher without evidence (presumption based on place purchased, trust in the merchant having full knowledge of the derivation, and verifiability based on trusted agents who oversee and examine), one can not blithely assume that because the sheitel is not Remy it is safe.


What about European hair?

Hinduism is not prevalent in Europe, and there are no religious practices in Europe in which a woman cuts off long hair. So, based on currently known data, European Remy hair should be considered Halachically acceptable.


A PSAK, A PSAK, MY KINGDOM FOR A PSAK!

Several ravs have spouted psak and teshuve ad nauseum, most either coming out against Indian hair wigs except under certain circumstances (psak l’issur), or stating l’heter that they were acceptable unless it was definitely known that the hair was tainted by A.Z., or in fact outright takruves (offerings) to the getchkeh (idol).

Some went on for several pages, quoted multiple authorities most marvelously, without actually saying bulgar all (I assure you that they standardly act so - it's not just you. Or your wig).

And a few proved nothing more than that an obsession with hair is common among poskim.


Rav X in Antwerp, in his considered opinion of the issue, may have said something to the effect that ‘de milde toepassing van de wet verdient de voorkeur’ (the mild application of the law deserves precedence), but he said it in over twenty pages of densely written Ivrit – this he expects women to read?

This he expects ME to read????

Shroyb es oyf Fleymish oder mameloyshn, zeyt azoy git! And be brief; I still have to read next week’s parsha!


That a lenient ruling should be made is in keeping with the decision made by rabbeyim over fifteen years ago (AND thirty years ago) when this issue came up before. But it may be that, at that time, the poskim were not fully aware of the details of the issue, hence their being matir.


BRIEF IRRELEVANT INTERLUDE

In mittn drinnen, most gedolei ha poskim (greats among the orthodox halachic decisors) have aza yechechishe yad that whatever they write cannot be deciphered – there ARE typewriters for Hebrew, freyvinseyks, or hire a sofeyr!

[I can recommend a sofeyr-in-training, if you need one. He can also correct your shreckliche Yiddishe grammar, not even mentioning the frightful things you do with Aramaic and Hebrew. He's good. He'll make your colleagues finally respect your tennuous claim to lomdus.
Instead of envying your talent for apikorsus and taste in Rabbinic wigs.]


OTHER HAIR

There are some very fine sheitlach made from Chinese hair (which is as strong as Indian hair, but has a softer and more sensual look), but if you must have a head of Chinese hair, best keep the Chinese person attached. Believe me, you won’t regret it. I haven’t.

On the other hand, hair from a harlot, or from a murderess shorn at her imprisonment, would also be perfectly acceptable - as long as she was not intimately involved in idolatry.


CARE OF THE SHEITEL

Taking care of your sheitel is crucial. Many women use a sheitel liner in between their head and the actual wig, which keeps it cleaner and prevents their own hair from intruding on the elegant, zesty lines of the sheitel. Synthetic hair is easier to clean, but bear in mind that synthetic wigs end up looking ratty and eccentric within a year, whereas a good real hair wig maintains its looks a bit longer.

If you wish to wash your wig yourself, instead of taking it to your local sheitel macher, do so every five or six weeks. It is best to place the thing securely on a Styrofoam head (use pins), wet it with warm water, lather with shampoo, and rinse gently. Conditioner can be applied, but apply AWAY from the root. Rinse after a minute or so. It can be air-dried, but in moist environments it is advisable to speed up the process with a blow dryer on low heat – also good for styling.


AGAIN, WHY A WIG IN THE FIRST PLACE?

Rabbinic law states that married women should cover their hair before all save their husbands, for reasons of modesty.

In the eighteenth century, when ultra-orthodoxim first started wearing sheitlach, the deceptively real appearance of certain wigs was manifestly not a problem; wigs were observedly unnatural, and no immodesty could be imputed.

Many orthodox rebbeyim at that time opined that covering one’s hair was more effectively done l’halocho with a sheitel than with a tiechel (headkerchief) or hat, as the sheitel can cover all of the hair, while also being convenient for wearing indoors.

Since then wiggery has become a firm custom, which many do not have the confidence to discard, and yet do not think deeply about. And there are those who, b’hiddur mitzvah, also wear a kerchief or a hat, in addition to their perruque.


Yet a good wig can mislead other women (who cannot see that it is fake, and may therefore assume that if a woman who is known to be respectable and frum is showing hair, it is acceptable to do so), and may in fact be as immodest in its effects as flaunting a luxurious head of hair for men to see, to smell, nay even to brush their faces against on the bus, inhaling deeply of its delicate aroma of perfumed shampoo.


Finally, if showing hair is tantamount to immodesty, I have to wonder whether it is not best for men to expose their big (!) bushy (!) beards (!) only to their wives, and only in the home.

Perhaps a discrete beard-snood is required. I know several rabbeyim who would look the better for it.




--- - --- - --- - --- - --- - ---

Sheitelmacher = One who makes sheitels. A manufacturer of sheitels, or a merchant of sheitels, particularly one who also reconditions sheitels and restores sheitels. One who has skills for the construction of sheitels, and the maintenance of sheitels and restoration of sheitels. A place where one may have a sheitel made, the place of business of one who makes or sells sheitels. Also the place of business of someone who reconditions sheitels or restores sheitels. A place where one may have a sheitel reconditioned, or where maintenance of sheitels is performed. Also the person who undertakes to maintain or restore sheitels. Even someone who repairs sheitels.

Note: A version of this text was first featured in commentary on certain e-mail drashas, but I'm comfortable recycling my own material, and having already spoken about sheitels today, I bethought me: "why not speak in detail of wigs". So I did. Questions?
 
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