Sunday, April 29, 2007

Welcome, JIB voters!

(This post will stay at the top until the first-round voting is over. Scroll down for new posts.)

Mah Rabu has been nominated for Best Jewish Religious Blog in the Jewish & Israeli Blog Awards. If you got here for the first time, here are some highlighted religious-themed posts from the last year for your perusal.

Nominated separately for Best Religious Series (voting starts next week):
Independent Jewish communities:
Jewish holidays:
Ideology and halacha:
Ritual practice:



We are victorious!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Vote aqui

Keep voting in the JIB Awards!

Here are some other blogs that have been nominated:

Vote vote vote!

Monday, April 23, 2007


Monopoly, 21, checkers, and chess, yeah yeah yeah yeah.


The JIB Awards are here, and Mah Rabu has been nominated for Best Jewish Religious Blog! I'm not telling anyone whom to vote for, but you can vote here for the blog of your choice. The voting is open until Sunday, April 29.

Mah Rabu has also been nominated in the Best Post and Best Series categories, but those votes don't start until next week.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Thursday, April 19, 2007


My name was Brian McGee
I stayed up listening to Queen

A day all Oklahomans will remember all their lives

On the 19th day of April
In 1995
There was the worst car bombing
Near 200 people died

In Oklahoma City
On Wednesday 9:00
They struck the federal building
Took out near half the block


Shock soon turned to anger
"Who'd do this?" people said
And everyones' suspicions
Had a price upon their head

They thought it was some Arabs
And folks began to scream
"First tighten up the borders
Then hang 'em from a tree

This proves what we've been saying
'Bout our fair and gentle land
Nobody who did this
Could be an American"

The FBI got busy
Some drawings and some names
And everyone was looking
For someone else to blame

Some 50 hours later
Early Friday day
They found the man they wanted
In jail ten miles away

A so-called right extremist
A patriot government foe
An expert on explosions
And white as driven snow

When people heard the news they found it
Hard to understand
How could such a murderer
Come from our own land

But when we build walls and borders
From fear and hate and guns
The hatred turns around and
Strikes at everyone

--Dan Bern, "Oklahoma"

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


After some unpleasantness that we won't get into, the Jewish & Israeli Blog Awards are here for real! Nominate your favorite blogs! And do it quick, because nominations close on Thursday night, April 19.


Everyone will be famous.

Crying wolf

Sometimes, whether due to ordinary rush-hour patterns or (like this Sunday) due to weekend construction plus extreme weather, New York City subway cars get very crowded. Sometimes people continue to pile onto the train long after it has exceeded its reasonable capacity. Sometimes, in an attempt to stop the crowds from pouring in further so that the doors can close and the train can get on its way, the conductor announces "There is another train directly behind us." Sometimes the conductor is telling the truth (intentionally or fortuitously) and after the train pulls out of the station, another one pulls right up. Other times, the conductor is full of shit, and there is no train for another 10 minutes.

The conductor says this because people are far more likely to give up their opportunity to get on the train that is presently in the station if they believe that a less crowded train is just a minute away. And if in fact it isn't, then the conductor doesn't have to deal with the angry passengers after they realize that they've been duped, since the first train is far ahead by then. Therefore, it seems that the conductor has an incentive to bullshit the passengers as a crowd-control method.

[I'm deliberately using the word "bullshit" instead of "lie". Harry Frankfurt writes, in On Bullshit,
It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.

I don't know enough about the subway system to know whether the conductor knows when the next train is coming, but the conductor doesn't seem to care.]

The problem with this ruse is that it only works once. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me, you can't get fooled again. After passengers realize that the conductor's announcements about "another train directly behind us" have no basis in reality except by coincidence, they begin to disregard these announcements and to pack themselves into overcrowded trains regardless of the conductor says. Thus it becomes useless for crowd control even in cases when there really is another train right behind (and the conductor knows it).

This makes me angry not because I sometimes have to wait a few extra minutes for a train; it's because it undermines the basic foundations of society. The subway is a large number of people crammed into a small space, and the only thing preventing an explosive situation is adherence to an unspoken social contract. In addition to "subway etiquette" (step all the way in, etc.), this contract includes basic trust that any information provided by the authorities is accurate to the best of the provider's knowledge. When information is provided without regard to its truth value, the social contract is breached, and the subway management is complicit in pushing society toward chaos.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Even if all of us were wise

See Jewschool for my post-Pesach rant.

I have lived for 10,000 days

It's been good so far, especially the last 5000.


A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


א-ל הורית לנו לומר 13 זכור לנו היום ברית 13

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Nine nine nine
That crazy number nine
Times any number you can find
It all comes back to nine

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Instead of one day of omer, we have eight craaaaaaazy nights!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

All of this is coming your way

The Automatic for the People kabbalat shabbat will have its NYC debut on Friday, April 27, 2007 (Shabbat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim), in an apartment in Upper Manhattan. Email mahrabu at gmail if you'd like to be added to the Evite.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


Eloheinu Eloheinu Eloheinu Eloheinu Eloheinu

...shebashamayim uva'aretz.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


2 Legit 2 Quit.

In every generation

We used the CCAR haggadah for the first seder on Monday night, then used A Different Night for the second seder.

The former haggadah was published in 1974, and has this to say before the Ten Plagues:

Each drop of wine we pour is hope and prayer
that people will cast out the plagues that threaten everyone
everywhere they are found, beginning in our own hearts:

The making of war,
the teaching of hate and violence,
despoliation of the earth,
perversion of justice and of government,
fomenting of vice and crime,
neglect of human needs,
oppression of nations and peoples,
corruption of culture,
subjugation of science, learning, and human discourse,
the erosion of freedoms.

Now we know where the Republican party of the early 21st century cribbed its platform from!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


ביום ההוא ביום ההוא יהיה ה' אחד ושמו ושמו ושמו אחד

(And I'll be counting the omer in a very different way over at Jewschool.)