Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tisha B'Av - Those who know history are doomed to repeat it

My shul skips some kinot in favor of recounting stories of crusades, pogroms, Polish, Ukrainian and Nazi actions during WWII and other fun stories. Most of the stories are about religious Jews getting killed or committing suicide to sanctify G-d's name. Most stories are the same as the year before.

Every year I get really pissed off. Not just by the stories but by the "moral of the story" at the end of Shacharis. The "moral of the story" is that in these times, all we can do is pray. Most of the stories are about religious Jews. They prayed. Where has that gotten them? All of them were killed because they shared responsiblity for everyone else.

It says "don't rely on miracles." People have no problem applying this concept to work, food, marriage, etc. When it comes to defense, it's not what a good Jew supposed to do, he should pray and all will be well. All will not be well because it never was. Especially in New York, martial arts, guns, knives, etc. is a stigma. In Chaim Berlin, a classmate of mine asked the rabbi if a Jewish cop is allowed to carry a gun on Shabbat. The answer, "a Jew shouldn't carry a gun ever." Just once, I want to hear a Rabbi finish his speach with "in these times, all we can do is pray, and get a gun, and maybe get some combat training." Then again, working is also becoming something a good Jew shouldn't do. And when it comes to marriage, all you gotta do is say tehillim all day and you'll miraculously wake up next day married.

Tisha B'Av is for remembering, but what's the point of remembering if you don't do anything to prevent it from happening again. And even worse, what's the point of remembering, if you're going to move back to Poland, Ukraine, Germany, Austria, etc.


  1. People seem to forget that Yosef did three things to prepare. We remember Prayer and Charity, but what happened to preparing for war? Never had to use them, but I've kept brass knuckles in my bag ever since people told me I would be biking through a bad area to get to college. Its a bad area, but I've never been threatened. Still, I'd rather have them just in case.

  2. Ruzin, you are so right!
    I feel very proud of our Jewish Cops as well as other non-traditional trades outside of trading.

  3. Brass knuckles are not very useful. You're more likely to injure yourself. Ninja spike or batton keychain is much better. Butterfly knives are also great. Fun toy, plus, can be used as weight for punching or for hitting points like temple and clavicle and it's a knife too. ;-)

  4. My fav "toy" growing up in Israel was a black butterfly knife. When I moved back here, I left it there.

    Now I'm much simpler-I keep a fish-gutting knife handy.

    Where can I get a nice B-knife around here?

  5. Online. Goes for around $20+. They actually are legal in NY as they were ruled not to be gravity knives.

  6. I have a sick divers knife which can be strapped around your leg. Not sure at what point in a fight I'd get a chance to bend down, roll up my pants and unsheath the knife though.

  7. Much better are throwing spikes with wrist pouch.

  8. Or how about this:

    Although people would get suspicious of someone having a phone so old. And make sure noone tries to borrow it to make a quick call.

  9. That would prob be useless above a couple feet and accuracy pretty bad because of length of barrel.
    You can very easily convert a disposable flash camera into a taser.

  10. I agree with the first thing Frumpunk said and it was yaakov not yosef but true anyway.


    You forgot that you pray for it to rain money from the sky so you dont have to work.

  11. "Just once, I want to hear a Rabbi finish his speach with "in these times, all we can do is pray, and get a gun, and maybe get some combat training.""

    you will hear that from plenty of rabbis. just not here in america.

    "Especially in New York, martial arts, guns, knives, etc. is a stigma."

    when there used to be religious boy scouts in brooklyn, they learned how to shoot rifles. then one summer a yeshivish guy organized a special summer camp at the boy scouts camp for more yeshivish kids (of course only for the summer, god forbid they do scouting all year round). they did a lot of the things all the other scouts did in camp . . . but not riflery.

    "Brass knuckles are not very useful. You're more likely to injure yourself. Ninja spike or batton keychain is much better. Butterfly knives are also great."

    i don't think any of these are great, especially if you are not trained to use them. unless you really feel your life is in mortal danger. i pull out a knife that i don't really know how to fight with anyway and my opponent pulls out a gun.

    anyway, i agree with the overall tone of your post. but there is still is something i wonder about (and i've been meaning to post about this). everyone says, oh if only the jews of europe were armed on the eve of the holocaust. but i wonder, what was the point of no return that they should have "risen up." if something like that were to happen today, at what point would i say it is time to take my guns onto the street? i have no idea. maybe i would wait until it's too late?

  12. Well, when they're breaking your windows, that's a pretty good time to start firing.
    A preemptive strike you can do in Israel where it's your country, in America...not so much.
    How long ago were these boy scouts around?

  13. "Well, when they're breaking your windows, that's a pretty good time to start firing."

    sounds fair. but even when it happen, it's not always so פשוט. let's make this real practical. if you were around during the crown heights riots (when the windows were being broken) and had weapons, you would have taken to the streets there to protect our brethren (with arms if you had them)?

  14. "How long ago were these boy scouts around?"

    my father went up this summer to camp with a couple of kids and i think they do some camping during the year, but as far as i know there hasn't been any real organized scouting (i.e., with regular meetings and large numbers) in brooklyn for 2 or 3 years. there's no market anymore for these types of goyish activities in brooklyn. outside of brooklyn it could be different. i know that in highland park/edison there are active troops, but i've never heard about from my friends in the other suburbs.

  15. In crown heights, if they would've came out with baseball bats, I think it would be different.

    Since these boy scouts don't shoot rifles anymore, do they at least do archery? Otherwise, it's just forest survival.

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. the religious boy scouts DO have riflery. the yeshivish thing i mentioned wasn't actually boy scouts. a guy organized a special program for yeshivish kids to go the scout camp and do scouting-type of activities for a few weeks. but they were NOT boy scouts. (and i'm pretty sure that even this program doesn't exist anymore.) these are the ones that didn't do rifle, but they did do the archery.

    camp moshava (there are a few, i only know of the one in indian orchard) does have a rifle range for campers, but it's not a very intensive program.

    i don't remember if the rioters used baseball bats, but for 3 days jews being beaten in the streets, stores were looted and homes were attacked. all the while then mayor dinkins ordered the police to stand down. one jew was stabbed to death.

  18. "all the while then mayor dinkins ordered the police to stand down."

    The Wikipedia link you posted disagrees with you. It said even with reinforcements the police were overwhelmed.

  19. Why not encourage yeshivas to include self-defense as part of the physical education (stop laughing) curriculum every few years of a child's education? Why do people enroll children in yeshivas that don't have good physical education programs? I don't know. Martial arts and mussar go hand in hand, as far as I'm concerned.

  20. Because it's evil and goyim do it. That's why men are not allowed to ride bicycles in Williamsburg.
    Also, "rabbis" that molest kids don't want to get their ass kicked.


    dinkins was criticized by the state report for the ineffective way in which he mobilized the police.

    i was in 11th grade at the time and i still remember the images of anarchy on the streets.


    the truth is that even if dinkins did act appropriately (and he didn't), the police can't really be expected to respond appropriately to civil unrest.

    personally, that is why i am pro-guns. it's not just a jewish thing. at the end of the day the cops can't always be relied on and i could be the only person that can guarantee the safety of myself and my family. friends think i'm paranoid, but speak to anyone who lived through LA and new orleans (and even crown heights). in the latter case it's not even that the police stood down or were ineffetive; they simply fled the city altogether.


    "Why not encourage yeshivas to include self-defense as part of the physical education curriculum "

    can we please try and be serious here. forget self-defense. you want phys. ed.? (as a side note, even in public schools phys. ed. programs have been cut back from the more intense kennedy-era programs

    "Why do people enroll children in yeshivas that don't have good physical education programs?"

    oh please. the only factor that decides how to choose a school is consider what your neighbor thinks of it.


    "Also, "rabbis" that molest kids don't want to get their ass kicked."

    laughing, even though nothing about this is funny


  22. Moshe: the reason why they don't say "...and get a gun" is because the main part is to understand that it all comes from Hashem and we can't control what happens just because we have a gun or take measures to defend ourselves. Also, davening is something universal that everyone can do. While not everyone is capable of using a gun and defending themselves. Everybody has different strengths. Through davening Hashem can help enlighten you on your strength so that when you are in danger you will know how to use it. But that doesn't mean we don't have to prepare physically, its just that the davening should come first. It is because we daven that the combat will work. Unless Hashem has plans otherwise.

    I would say it would be great for people to take defense classes if it makes them feel better, but that alone shouldn't make you feel secure.

    There was a great story I heard about a wrestler who only had one arm and everyone thought he wouldn't be able to win, but he was trained a certain way, and a whole story, and then he ended up winning. So basically things can turn around on you and what seems unexpected can happen.

  23. Davening alone will not help. Just like it doesn't help with money, you need to do something yourself too.

  24. Moshe - good post.

    Babysitter - If you learn how to fight and get attacked Hashem will help you with the situation. But if you never learned to fight and got attacked Hashem cannot possibly help you. Can he? (I am not saying that Hashem has limitations, I am saying that Hashem likes to do things within our natural world, miracles are only performed for exceptional people.)


    "the main part is to understand that it all comes from Hashem and we can't control what happens"

    i'm not sure how you can comparmentalize like this. when someone is sick do you only say tehilim (or do some segulos) of encourage them to seek the best medical care? (and same story, as moshe pointed out, with money)

    so why the volte face when it comes to self defense? all of sudden you rely on siyata deshmaya? who says hishtadlus is so insignifigant?

    this fatalist attitude is one that ended up causing the deaths of jews.

    hashem is not going to help us for sitting on our tuchus. he will laugh at us. (there is a joke about this.)

    go count how many times in tanach hashem vanquished our enemies through miraculous means without benei yisrael doing their part. then compare that to the number of times benei yisrael had to go out to war and fight.

    "I would say it would be great for people to take defense classes if it makes them feel better, but that alone shouldn't make you feel secure."

    I would say it would be great for people to take daven if it makes them feel better, but that alone shouldn't make you feel secure.

    (who says davening and learning to defend yourself are mutually exclusive activities anyway?)

    finally, i think you take home the wrong message from the wrestler story (which by the way is not at all unusual, as per the para-olympics). the moral is that even if it seems like the cards are stacked against you, through extra hishtadlus you can overcome all adversity. you think this wrestler doesn't train just as hard (or 10 times as hard) as his teammates? it is not about just sitting around and relying on divine intervention.

  26. as an aside, i find it ironic that people i know who feel that davening is more important than proactive measure for self defense generally daven in shuls that can't be bothered to say a tefilah for those upon whose beneficience and protection we rely (whether here or in israel)

  27. Moshe: I agree with that, you can't expect things to happen by themselves.

    Mlevin: Hashem likes doing things in the natural world, but if you daven perhaps you will be worthy of a miracle? When there is someone who has 3 days to live according to the doctor, and the family davens and a miracle happens and the person is saved, its because of the davening, the doctor had given up!

    Lion of Zion: I agree, you have to do both, daven and get a good doctor when someone is sick, but you have to remember the doctor is the shliach, Hashem is giving the doctor the power to cure.

    You are supposed to protect yourself, lock your doors, keep the windows closed at night or other safety precautions. But not everyone is capable of learning self defense and applying it. Just like not everyone can be a doctor and save people, wouldn't you say everyone should learn CPR and other things for safety.

    their not mutually exclusive, you can do both daven and learn self defense. But the davening is still the main one, as in the reason why you won.

    Your right about the story, that was the message. But from an outsiders point of view, its showing how something unnatural can still happen.

    I personally don't daven for good marks on tests and stuff cause I feel like it will jinx it. But I still believe that Hashem is running the world, and I'm not in control.

    About the davening for Israel and other such stuff, that makes sense, cause its usually zionistic shul's that would daven for Israel. The people who believe in davening over proactive measurements usually don't believe in Israel being a state. But they would daven for all those other things.

  28. Everyone is able to learn to shoot a gun. Though having the guts to shoot is another matter.

  29. Moshe: Exactly!
    People can panic and all the training they had won't help them.

  30. moshe: You are so right!

    i completely agree with you on this.

    There is no point to remember if we're just going to do it again. I feel like sometimes Rabbi's sit around and pray these things happen again just so they can tell us to pray some more!

    Great post!


    "But not everyone is capable of learning self defense and applying it."

    you keep on saying this, but i'm not sure what you mean. who exactly is incapable learning self defense. sure there are people who really physically or mentally can't (althought let's not forget the lesson of the wrestler you brought up), but the majority of the population is perfectly capable. senior homes even have classes to teach the elderly how to use their canes and other assistive devices as weapons.

    "Just like not everyone can be a doctor and save people, wouldn't you say everyone should learn CPR and other things for safety."

    not everyone can be a doctor because there are a limited number of seats in medical schools. there is no quota on self defense classes (they serve the market that exists) or gun permits.

    "I personally don't daven for good"

    why do you even study?

    "The people who believe in davening over proactive measurements usually don't believe in Israel being a state."

    only people who suffer an altered sense of reality "don't believe in Israel being a state." it is a state. it exists. people might disagree with how it is run or even believe that it should be dismantled. but it exists.

    not only does it exist, but even those who oppose its existence (or its current state of existence) derive benefit from it. the anti-religious state funds yeshivos, give stipends (as meagre as the they may be) to kollel families, gives free land for shuls, mikvaot, etc. everytime we visit israel and go to the kotel we derive benefit from the state (throught the soldiers, shlichim of hashem like the doctors you mentioned, who liberated it). everytime someone flicks a light switch or flushes the toilet they benefit from the state. finally, all the frum jews in america who are so opposed to the state seem to have such strong opinions about the state not giving land to the arabs. yet they can't get themsevles to daven for the state and soldiers that would hold that land.

    anyawy, i didn't mean for this to be a zionist issue (i was actually planning on addressing it on my own blog in the near future). in my earlier comment i referred to people who "can't be bothered to say a tefilah for those upon whose beneficience and protection we rely (whether HERE or in israel)."

    HERE = in america

    when was the last time you were in a shul in brooklyn that said the tefilla for the american government (which is something that has been done by jews all over the world for centuries and is not a modern litugical innovation)


  32. I don't a gun handy but I keep some knives stashed around the house.

    Fine, call me crazy :P

    Moshe, any good websites?

  33. I got swords, though only 440s. Got a razor sharp sushi knife.

    I googled "butterfly knife", got some sites. Haven't bought myself yet. Most either too expensive or bad quality. If you know what you want, look around and maybe you'll find something for around $30.
    When I buy one, I'll let you know.

  34. Lion Of Zion: True there are ways to teach people according to their abilities, but still. Like learning a dance not everyone can follow all the stops. Not everyone is tough and can hurt other people. I've gotten e-mails with different tips of how to protect yourself if a situation should arise, but even if you studied it, when it actually came to the real thing people may panic.

    According to your theory, if your taught something then you can be it. So then how come not everyone is capable of sitting and learning Torah, if your saying that if they learn it then they will know how and be able to do it. Not everyone can be a doctor just because they go to med school, you have to do something with the knowledge. Why is it that so many people hate math if you were able to understand it once you were taught it.

    I don't study either, I figure whatever happens will happen, and it will all turn out for good. Here's an example of where Bitachon works.

    Right, I meant the idea of it being a state, not the state of it now, weather it is a state or not.

    Just because their serving a good purpose doesn't mean they themselves are good. Some people won't accept money from not good sources. I'm not saying the non-religious state of Israel is good or bad. But I know plenty of people/organizations that didn't take money from questionable sources, for exactly that reason, they didn't want to show they agree with it. Now back to your point, I can understand it from an American view point that since I'm living in America I should be thankful for all they provide, and I'm not against the American country. But I never took an interest to Israeli politics so I don't know all the issues behind it, I just know that there are 2 sides to it.

    So back to America, when was the last time America was in trouble? By 9/11 I imagine people davened for the people that were missing and stuff.

    Just another issue with the defense classes, you know what would happen if everyone would start taking defense classes, it would cause a huge scare. It's like building up weapons, it will cause a war.

    Anyways, seems like Hashem gave a human instinct to protect yourself when you need to. You have hands to scratch, pinch, punch. Feet to kick, mouth to bite. Children seem to know how to do these at a young age and they don't seem to need help learning how.

  35. gevalt! I'm with frumpunk on the yaakov/be prepared thing.

    the problem with some of the jewish self-defense programs out there is SOME of them are run by people who think very not nice things about some others. PM me on facebook if you want me to expand on that; I'm listed as sarah bee.

  36. babysitter, self defense is not about thinking, it's about automatically reacting. Biting and kicking is not gonna help much. What will is knowing how to get out of holds, where pressure points are located and how to activate them, how to apply holds and breaks, etc.
    Girls have an awesome weapon at their disposal, stiletto heels or even high heels. While worn, can be used to attack an opponent's foot, especially if you're held from behind. If taken off, great for attacking temple, clavicle, neck.
    The difference between self defense and learning, math, medicine, etc. is that you're supposed to memorize certain moves until they become second nature. Anyone can do it.


    "I don't study either . . . Here's an example of where Bitachon works."

    that works for you?

    "Just because their serving a good purpose doesn't mean they themselves are good."

    i just want to point out that there is a מי שבירך for israeli soldiers. there are thousands of "good" frum soldiers. no reason we can't at least daven for them.

    "Some people won't accept money from not good sources."

    this describes very, very few people in israel. the religious parties and their constituencies in israel have no problem whoring themselves for every last shekel. (nothing personal against the religious parties. unfortunately that's the way politics works in israel and everyone does it.)

    "But I know plenty of people/organizations that didn't take money . . ."


    "So back to America, when was the last time America was in trouble?"

    are you serious? iran is on the path to developing nuclear weapons that they would be more than happy to use against america and its interests, but america can't deal with it properly because we're bogged down in wars--yes, we are at war right now--in 2 different theaters simultaneously. americans are getting shot up and killed every day to protect our freedoms and comfortable lifestyles (and there are some jewish soldiers, even frum ones,
    including a guy who recently lost his leg).

    but this is all irrelevant. praying for the welfare of the government--which is mentioned by ירמיהו--is not only when in times of national stress. communities have recited prayers for the government on a regular basis for many centuries

    (including in america)
    . if we could do it for the anti-semitic czars and other despots, we can do it for the president.

  38. Moshe: ok, makes sense.

    Lion Of Zion: ok, maybe I was joking a little. I do study, but I don't drive myself crazy studying. I don't do all nighters and don't stay up late studying. Studying doesn't guarantee good marks. When you feel like you know it all, then it can backfire on you. and when you think you don't know it at all, you surprisingly do well. Because when you think you don't know it then your relying on Hashem more, so that's why you do well.

    right, I'm not talking about Israeli soldiers. You know where the money comes from to help fund nefesh benefesh? it comes from some missionary place.

    Yea, I know plenty, a school for one didn't accept money from Barbra Streisand. The whole reason why people are against kollel is because they feel its stealing to take welfare money when your capable of a job. I know people that won't go to camps like Sternberg because its funded through a questionable place.

    ok, when you say to daven for the president, you mean it in a govermental sense, right? If so then I think it would be smart to daven that the government should make the right decisions and other such stuff.

    The reason why people don't is because they are extremest and feel that they are supposed to separate themselves from secular stuff.

    Like the story of a Rav that asked his Talmud who the president was at that time, his Talmud said Nixon, so then he said, "Baruch ata....Shelo Asani Goy" that he wanted to have in mind that he was so happy to be a Jew, that he wouldn't even want to be the most powerful goy-the president.

    So there it shows that he purposefully didn't know who the president was, be felt it was unimportant, since the president was just the shliach, it could have been anyone. So the name shouldn't be so important. Or something like that.

  39. I have never understood Jews not learning how to effectively use firearms, or Jews in favor of gun control.

  40. You know, now that I think about it, the rabbis are probably afraid of shootouts at simchas. As it is, you have a good chance of getting stabbed when the food is on a central table or even when it's one bowl of cholent per table.

  41. To extrapolate defending yourself in the melting pot of America today onto past generations of subjugation is a bit warped.
    I think this desire to defend and arm yourself is simply a desire to feel good and strong about oneself.
    It's a mindset..
    In my opinion it's a weakness.
    It's this idea of strength, and a feeling of control that propels these thoughts.
    It's important to examine..and see where these emotions are really coming from..I think you'd be surprised...

  42. Capoeira came from black slaves whose hands were tied so they only had the use of their legs. Japanese weapons are all farmers' tools because they were not allowed to have swords so they adopted their day to day tools to fighting. These were oppressed people who wanted to do something about it. You're the one who should examine where your thoughts originate.
    I can also tell you that your going to work and going to a doctor shows your lack of trust in Hashem.

  43. You're right..
    Except that by Parnossa and Refuah the Torah explicit tells us to ...otherwise we wouldn't.

    I'm not saying that if someone accosts you, you shouldnt defend yourself..
    I'm just saying that to think that somehow our history would be different had we been a warrior nation in the past is not accurate.
    Many nations that armend themselves..ended up losing bloody battles and getting weiped off the face of the earth. adapting a more submissive pose..have somehow survived all the way to here..

  44. Israel used to be a warrior nation. You did learn that men, unlike women, are allowed to wear jewelry, swords, on shabbat, while women are not allowed to wear jewelry?
    As far as the other warrior nations losing bloody battles, they tried to bite off more than they could chew and they didn't learn from history.
    btw, Torah explicitly tells you that if you know someone is coming to kill you, to go and kill him first. Then there's Abir, whether you believe in their claims or not. Also, both Capoeira, tonfa, nunchucks, kama, etc. were created for defense, not for warfare, so stop twisting my words.

  45. We were a warrior nation in our land..when were commanded to be one.
    In the diaspora our stance changed to a passive one going back thousands of years.
    You somehow think that if we would have been a more aggressive armed nation throughout our history we would have been better off.
    I disagree with you..

    I just said that're allowed to defend yourself.

  46. You can defend yourself only if you know how.

  47. Well, the only time I ever came face to face with a threatening situation, it involved a suicide bomber.

    I don't think ninja spikes would have done much good.

  48. This comment has been removed by the author.

  49. Unless he had a dead man's switch, a ninja spike might actually help.
    What would also help is knowing how to read body postures, trained awareness and knowing what's a safe cover to dive behind.

  50. I disagree with another contributor. We did not choose to be a pacifist nation. We were de-clawed in golus, and now for the past 60 years to some extent we've been growing our claws back and hitting our enemies in their faces.

  51. LEZER, LOUIS KESTENBAUM A SATMAR Chasid is being accused. WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) - A teenage girl has filed a $50 million lawsuit against a New York billionaire, saying he sexually abused her when she was 14.

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    The girl, now 17, claims Louis Kestenbaum invited her to his Florida mansion in 2005 to perform a massage for $300. The lawsuit, filed in federal court, claims he demanded she remove her clothes, then sexually assaulted her.

    The girl, her father and stepmother are seeking more than $50 million.

    Joel kestenbaum the son of Louis kestenabum had no comments

  52. Obvious lie as there's no mention of this on any news site.

    Here's the real story