Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Wigged Out Follow Up

Following up on "Handel Ehrlekh - A Wigged-Out Photo Blog"...

The wig store caved.

Dov Bear and The Yeshiva World have posted the letter Rav Aaron Schechter wrote declaring victory.

It's a particularly ungracious letter, with a back-handed tweak at the store owner and Rav Schechter notably refrains from urging people to patronize the store. Graceless.

I think it's important to note that the post received thousands of hits and I received a number of emails about the matter as well. The matter was discussed on a number of other blogs as well, (for instance, here), and thus far, no one has offered a reasonable explanation/justification for the boycott letter. The Chillul Hashem stands.

This is because process matters, much as I noted with regard to the Slifkin ban. Put simply, even granting that Rav Aaron Schechter was right in this case about the photos, the abuse of process causes justifiable disaffection. Do the Chareidi leaders really seek to alienate fair-minded Jews?

This isn't a one time occurrence. It's been happening again and again. We're told that frum Jews have to follow the Halachik process, and that includes settling disputes in Bet Din, not saying Lashon Hara, etc. As well, we're told that Halacha does not allow for a judge to hear an argument without the plaintiff and defendant both being present. Yet, when it comes down to it, our leaders seem to be demonstrating that these rules don't apply to them.

We're told that a "hazmana" to a Din Torah may not be ignored, and must be responded to either by engaging in said Bet Din, or choosing another. They ignore them.

We're told that you can't slander someone. They can.

We're told that disputes ought to be taken to a Din Torah, yet they didn't do so in this case prior to the boycott letter going out, or in the Slifkin case prior to the bans being promulgated, to cite but two recent examples.

And so on...

That's the main issue here, but there's another as well, and that is the matter of tznius.

Some in the community (too many) seem to be applying the Feiler Faster Thesis to tznius. The apparent "Tzniyus Faster Thesis" states that the ability of the community to adopt more stringent levels of tznius for women as the norm is happening ever faster, as the time it takes for the baseline to move rightward has shortened to account for the quicker frequency of proposed extremes.

The end result? Well, some have started wearing burqas in Israel. A Mother in Israel has a number of posts about "hyper-tzniut" that include links to a Maariv article about the phenomenon, and its leader, Rabbanit Bruria Keren.

Can we expect "Burqas by Esti" to be opening soon across from Yeshivas Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin?

Here are some emails we received on our original post.

Devora Kessin writes:
Thank you for that wonderful post. Your remarks and observations regarding both the game and the Sheitel store problem were wonderfully done and photographed.

It's sad to know the extremes people here in Israel are going to in the name of Tznius has made the leap to NY.
Frimet Roth writes:
Many thanks for sharing the illuminating Yiddish Monopoly with us.

Regarding the controversial shop window: The photos there appear distinctive in the "provocative" head-tilt the models sport. ( The more modest models in the other shops you photographed keep their necks nice and straight.)

Could a ban on women's public head-tilting be far off?

No doubt the definitive brochure listing permissible head positions (perhaps accompanied by full-color illustrations) is already being drafted.
I hope she's being sarcastic about the head tilt. She forgot to comment on the entirely inappropriate shade of lipstick the sheitel heads in the BP store window were wearing. Feh!

We already posted Eli's comments a few days ago:
...I read your post regarding bans and could not agree with you more. Bravo for talking about the extremist white elephant that is trampling over good old fashioned Yiddeshe common sense. Halevai more people would have the guts to say what most of us are thinking.
Here are some other blogs that linked to the post.
Gaby's Gobbledygook
Prima Impressionis
On the Main Line
Frum Satire

Also, "Der Kegener" takes me to task and writes:
Then there's the issue of the musician author of the Blog in Dm being paranoid and believing those silly stories he heard as a kid. Here's what he says: This is a board game called "Handel Ehrlekh". It's hard to translate the title accurately. Idiomatically, it means "Dealing Ethically", but "handel" often has somewhat of a negative connotation as well, as in financial wheeling and dealing, or "bargaining down". Mr. DM, you need to stop believing that nonsense, it's not very becoming of an educated member of the musical elite to believe hearsay like that. Yes, you may ocassionally hear stories from that neck of the woods that conjure up images of unscrupulous Jews taking advantage of the less fortunate, but Ad K'dei Kach? to think that they LeKatchilloh educate their kids to bargain and be dishonest? That's a stretch, don't you think? the good people of Williamsburg deserve to be judged better by yourself. Besides, it was one guy who made the game, not an official production.
First, thanks for the compliment.

Tzig puts a negative spin on my words that was not intended. I neither stated nor implied that a goal of the game was to teach kids to be dishonest. It is what the word means idiomatically, though, as I wrote. As I believe I indicated in my post, I find the goal of the game, and the sentiment behind it, admirable. I do of course take issue with some of the more bizarre elements, as indicated on some of the cards shown, etc.

I have no idea which silly stories I supposedly heard as a kid, but I assume he means to imply that I don't know that community. He forgets that my experience is not based on hearsay, but on the fact that I am a "Hasidic Musician". (One of my sisters would have been named Yoel had she been a boy.)

Finally, the guy who made the game writes at the end of the instructions that all of the educational components of this game were done in consultation with and with the knowledge of Rabbonim. Interestingly, this part of the notes is written in Hebrew instead of Yiddish. See for yourself by checking the scan of the instructions I included in the original post.

I got some email about my description of the game.

Zev Sero wrote:
"Of course, if a player runs out of money, he receives charity. This results in the game being never ending, for, if you run out of money, you immediately receive a tzedoko (charity) stipend."

Nope. Read the rules again. You only get $50, and the max loan from the Gemach is $300; if the rents on fully-developed properties are anything like those in Monopoly, that isn't going to get you far in the end-game.
He may be right. I'd assumed that this would continue ad infinitum, with the "poor person" receiving $50 as often as needed indefinitely.

He continued:
BTW, I see nothing unethical in borrowing some of Monopoly's game mechanics, and even look-and-feel; Darrow borrowed heavily from what came before him, so why shouldn't people borrow from him? In any case, the only legitimate purpose of IP law is to encourage creativity, so an infringement that doesn't affect the owner's bottom line is not wrong. Nobody who was going to buy Monopoly will decide not to buy it because they bought Handel Erlich instead. So how is Parker Bro's (or whoever
owns it now) harmed by this "infringement"?
I responded mentioning Dina D'malchusa Dina (the obligation to obey the laws of the land):
I agree with you about the concept behind IP law, but you're wrong on the facts. IP law covers many scenarios where the owner doesn't suffer a loss. This comes up a lot with regard to music sampling. The issue isn't whether the IP owner suffered a direct loss of sales by the infringement. Bottom line: Dina d'malchusa dina.
Sero replied:
DMD is *way*-overhyped. For one thing it has nothing to do with
erlichkeit. It's a technical rule in dinei momonos, based on an extremely puzzling memra in the gemara, and if you look at the rishonim's struggle to come up with a rationale you can see how none of them really had a kabala about it. It's not at all clear that it applies here and now, and if so to what extent. In the current case the constitution is clear on the purpose for which it authorises congress to make copyright and patent laws, so if there's no direct loss of sales then as far as I'm concerned the application of the law to that case is unconstitutional. I don't give a damn that no court in the land will agree with me; the case isn't going to come up in court anyway. But if you're appealing to my own conscience and saying that I ought to obey the law of my own volition then I'm entitled to my own view of the law, and as I read the constitution this law is invalid in such a case. Even if I cared about the law, which I really don't.
I think this is a very revealing response. Suffice it to say that I disagree. As does my posek.