Thursday, February 27, 2014

Maps of European American ancestries

These maps show the population concentrations of national extractions in the US. You see the concentrations of Germans in the Midwest. Based on 2000 U.S. Census. (Sorry I can't find the key but dark red indicates higher density, then red, then orange, then yellow, then white).

Click to view

German ancestry:


Compare to this map of Italian ancestry and you'll see high percentage of German ancestry all over the USA.

Italian Ancestry:


RankAncestryNumberPercent of total
10American Indian7,876,5682.8%

This one is even more revealing:

Plurality ancestry in each state, ranging from 11.8% (FL) to 43.9% (ND).     German      American      Mexican      Irish      African      Italian      English
     Japanese      Puerto Rican

This means, I believe, that the state is colored to indicate the largest national group. For most of the country it is German.

Source: Wikipedia

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Corporate World

"[Regarding Avraham being ordered to leave his homeland,  birthplace  and father's house]...It is certainly not meant to be belittleing of this factor if the planting of the first Jewish germ demanded forsaking fatherland, birth-place and the paternal home. It is rather just the appreciation of these factors wherin lies the greatness of the isolation demanded here. This demand itself placed Abraham in the completest contrast to the ruling tendency of his age. Not individualism, not recognition of the worth and importance of the individual, but centralization which makes men lose their personal value, and lower them to mere subordinate workers, mere bricks for the building of the fame of a supposed representation of the community, that was the tendency of the age, which under the slogan of "let us make a name for ourselves" began building the tower of the glory of Man. This tendency begot the erroneous conception of  a majority which has sway in every direction and in every case. So that finally everything is considered the highest by the majority, ipso facto becomes considered and honored as the highest by everybody. It is true of course that the majority of every community should be the representative of all that which is truly the highest and holiest; and it is in the presumption that such is the case, that Judaism, too, values attachment to the community as being supremely important. Nevertheless at the head of Judaism the words לך לך "go for yourself" stand as being higher still; nobody may say: I am as good, as honest, as everybody else is, as is the fashion here today. Everybody is responsible to G-d for himself. If necessary, alone - with G-d - when the principle worshipped by the majority is not the true godly one. this what was demanded from Abraham as the starting point of his and his future people's mission. Our very language teaches, as we have seen, in the word ארץ and בית how strong are the bonds that attach a person both; yet stronger than the bond that attaches us to fatherland and family should the bond be that attaches us to G-d. How could we have existed, how continue to exist, if we had not, from the very beginning received from Abraham the courage to be a minority!"

Rav Hirsch (Bereishis 12:1) in daattorah.blogspot

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Explanation of R' Hirsch on the Exemption of Women from Positive Time Bound Commandments

Letter to the Jewish Observer, February 1997

To the Editor:

The November issue featured a letter regarding the reason for the exemption of women from many mitzvos. The writer disagrees with Rabbi Yisroel ben Reuven's rejection of the idea that "women are higher spiritually than men and are not in need of [timebound] commandments;” citing Rabbi S. R. Hirsch as a source for this concept. Rabbi Hirsch actually states that "women have greater fervor and more faithful enthusiasm for their G-d given calling" and are less at risk than men, who must go out in professional and business pursuits. This is no way stating that women are spiritually superior. (He does not even say that women have more fervor and enthusiasm than men; he states that they have proportionally more zeal for their assigned tasks.)

Rabbi Hirsch is explaining that women are naturally endowed with emuna peshuta (unquestioning faith), and a woman's role of living a sheltered life of v'hinei Sora ba'ohel (Sarah, in the tent) is removed from the many temptations that face man. Rabbi Hirsch explains that a woman's position in a Torah life protects her from the temptations that abound and the risks that time-bound mitzvos were given to protect against. Therefore, she does not require those mitzvos. These characteristics should not be confused with spirituality. This is similar to the position of a king who has special mitzvos to protect him from arrogance and pride; his role is such that he requires the protection of additional mitzvos. Would anyone dream of saying that the king is lower spiritually than the rest of Klal Yisroel because of his need for additional mitzvos?

With the above we can catch a glimpse of the perfection of the creation and the unity of Torah that guides it. The Abudraham explains that women are exempt from time-bound mitzvos so that mitzvos should not interfere with their family obligations. In other words, their main obligation and profession is to assist their spouse and raise a family. The Creator planned things accordingly, and gave them emotional and psychological characteristics to help them fulfill their purpose. Their emuna peshuta helps them prepare a proper environment for the next generation. Their enthusiasm and maternal instincts protect them from the desire to leave the home. Those same characteristics make them less susceptible to the problems that confront men which the constant reminders of certain mitzvos alleviates. The Creator endowed them with their specific makeup so that they should not require certain mitzvos, because they would not be able to fulfill them without encroaching on their primary mission. As we become aware of these insights in creation and its purpose, we can only marvel: Ma tabu ma'asechaHashem-How vast are Your deeds, Oh G-d!


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Casting a light into the darkness

'Torah Im Derech Eretz, Rav Shimon Schwab (rabbi of KAJ from 1958-1995) once said, “means the Torah’s conquest of life and not the Torah’s flight from life. It means the Torah’s casting a light into the darkness rather than hiding from the darkness. It means applying Torah to the earth and not divorcing it from the earth.”'

Continue reading

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

European Judaism Started in Germany

"The Ashkenazic communities gradually spread to other parts of Europe. Torah students from the core communities of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz went on to become Torah leaders in neighboring lands. Some examples are France (Rashi and others), Bohemia and Austria (the Or Zarua and others), Poland (Maharam Mintz, R’ Yakov Falk, and others), and Italy (the Shibolei Haleket, Mahari Mintz, and others).

"In general, these communities continued to practice Ashkenazic customs in the lands they spread to. As a result, we refer to all European Jews — except the Spanish, Portuguese, and those Jews who came under their influence — as “Ashkenazim.” An indication of their Ashkenazic origin is the obvious linguistic link between Yiddish and German."

Machon Moreshes Ashkenaz
Rabbi Binyamin Shlomo Hamburger
Translated by Rabbi Reuven Poupko

Monday, February 10, 2014

Their criticism does not touch us

“Times may have changed. But the problems have remained essentially the same…. Only an un-wavering, straightforward course will lead to success. We neither look for nor require the agreement or approval of those who prefer a different course. Their criticism does not touch us.… As for us, let us do our best to promote and fulfill the TIDE ideal in its true spirit and let us protect it from regrettable misuse and misinterpretation."

 “A personal footnote: on the day before he passed away my father, zt”l, told me: ‘I am
firmly convinced that the way shown by Rav Hirsch will be mekarev hageulah.’ ”

R' Joseph Breuer

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Encouragement from John Steinbeck

"So there went the magic formula, the secret ingredient. With no more than that, we were set on the desolate, lonely path of the writer. And we must have turned in some abysmally bad stories. If I had expected to be discovered in a full bloom of excellence, the grades given my efforts quickly disillusioned me. And if I felt unjustly criticized, the judgments of editors for many years afterward upheld my teacher's side, not mine. The low grades on my college stories were echoed in the rejection slips, in the hundreds of rejection slips."

Nobel prize winning author John Steinbeck discussing his early experiences as a writer. The lesson is clear: don't be discouraged by the failures in your life. Look how things started for Steinbeck and look what he became as a writer.

Linked post: Hand Washing Before Kiddush (Torah Musings)

by Gil Student

"In the old days, there was a very widespread custom that was stamped out by leading rabbis who felt that it did not sufficiently conform to the Talmud. This despite explicit approval of the practice by scholars of the highest tier.

No, I am not referring to any example of the so-called Haredization of the Jewish community in the twentieth century. I am talking about a development in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the practice is washing one's hands (with a blessing) prior to reciting kiddush over wine and then proceeding directly to reciting a blessing over the hallah."


Monday, February 3, 2014

Not For the Jews Alone

"But the Torah has also taught us not to conceive of this our destiny and of the lot which awaits us because of it and for the purpose of its fulfillment, in terms of isolated phenomena. Even as it has taught us to acquire the proper, thoughtful appreciation for nature through God, and for the place of man in nature, so it also demonstrates to us that the founding and the destiny of our people is most intimately linked with the course of the history of mankind as a whole, which is no less guided by God than is our own. It teaches us to recognize that the purpose of our founding and our introduction into the midst of the nations was that we might teach mankind, and reclaim mankind for, the knowledge and recognition of God, and of its own destiny and task as assigned it by Him. At the very beginning, Abraham was appointed to be "the spiritual father of the multitude of the nations." It was through him, and through the generations that would follow him, that blessings were to come "to all the families of the earth." At the time of His very first intervention in the course of the history of the nations in behalf of Israel, God referred to the latter not as His "only son" but rather as His "first-born" son. In the same spirit, God declared the aim of the miracles He had wrought for the deliverance of His people in Egypt to be "that His Name might be proclaimed throughout the earth" (Exod. 9: 16). And it is repeatedly stated that a reason for the preservation of Israel among the nations was that all the nations might be brought back to a purer knowledge of God (Num. 14:13 ff)."

R' Hirsch, intro to commentary on Tehillim