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First day of school

Havel Havelim #36 is here!

It's been an exciting week in the Jewish and Israeli blogosphere, and I'm honored to be this week's host of Havel Havelim ("Vanity of vanities," -- see line two of Kohelet for the reference), the carnival of the Jewish and Israeli blogosphere, which SoccerDad started back in December of 2004. This is installation #36, an auspicious number (double chai -- to life, to life, l'chayyim!)

This roundup aims to showcase some of the insight and breadth of the Jewish and Israeli blogosphere. We've got posts about politics, the existence (and value) of the Jewish Diaspora, the theology and reality of Hurricane Katrina; Torah commentary, teshuvah meditations, musings on Jewish ethics and the death penalty; Israeli life, Israeli philanthropy, and Israeli photographs.

Needless to say, I don't personally agree with all of the posts to which I've linked here, but I think they're all thought-provoking, and hope you do too. With no further ado, here's my roundup of some of the week's highlights...

Diaspora Blogging

This week included Arrival Day, the holiday commemorating the first arrival of Jews on American soil 351 years ago. Jonathan Edelstein of Head Heeb offers a blogburst, as usual, which is well worth checking out. (I hope it's not gauche to link to my contribution, Celebrating Dialogue -- I'm really enjoying the conversation happening in the comments sections.) In response to the whole phenomenon, Ze'ev Orenstein argues that Arrival Day is problematic and suggests Yom Ha-Aliyah instead. (More from Ze'ev in the Israel section of this roundup.)

Judith at Kesher Talk draws on the writings of Rabbi Alan Lew, on themes of estrangement and reconciliation, broken houses and rejoicing, in  Ellul countdown: the broken house.

Kaspit/Quicksilver wonders whether tobacco business operations are allowed by Jewish law and ethics, and suggests a death penalty amnesty in honor of Chief Justice Rehnquist's passing based on Torah teachings about the death of the High Priest.

I'm told that Tzemach Atlas of MentalBlog blogged about Bahraini Jews, but I couldn't get his link to load. (I did read a post about Bahraini Jews this week, by Haitham Sabbah, who reports that the Bahraini Human Rights Society is now headed by Huda Azra Nono, a Jewish lady from the "very tiny Bahraini Jewish community.")

Robin of Shemittah Rediscovered argues that if we kept the Biblical custom of shmittah (letting the land lie fallow every seventh year, and trusting in Adonai to provide) we wouldn't get disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

Elf of Apikorsus also blogs about the hurricane, arguing that religious Jews have an obligation to respond forcefully (and negatively) to arguments which make natural disasters "punishments" for particular "sins," in Theodicy: it's our problem.'s blogger Andrew posts from the Houston Astrodome where he is volunteering his time to help hurricane refugees.

DovBear, too, has been (you should pardon the phrase) posting up a storm about hurricane Katrina, but he also took the time to post on Torah and whether every letter was given at Sinai, with footnotes.

Akiva of Mystical Paths writes, in perceptions, misperceptions, and the attack of a Bear!, about being frum vs. being liberal, about the varieties of practice acceptable to Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, and about what he gains from interacting with a range of Orthodox bloggers:

I've picked up some nice recipes, some nice ways of enhancing the holidays, and some nice ways of enhancing my relationship with G-d from these wide range of interactions.

I refuse to disconnect from one part of the orthodox Jewish community to be able to connect with another, I stand with Ahavas Yisroel (brotherly love) and an Ayin Tov (a good eye) for everyone in the community.

1rabbi's author sees relevance in the confluence of the United States beginning confirmation hearings for John Roberts, and last week's Torah portion (Shoftim) which contains the famous exhortation tzedek, tzedek tirdof, "Justice, justice shall you pursue!"

SoccerDad muses on a particularly beautiful ha-rachaman.

Parshablog's Josh returns after a couple weeks of silence, offering musings about his life, thoughts on politics, and explications of midrashim on parashat Ekev and parashat Re'eh.

Israeli Blogging

Ze'ev Orenstein writes, in The Greatest Threat to the State of Israel,

"The greatest threat that faces Israel, as a Jewish State, today, is not the 'Palestinians,' it is not demography, and it is not even the threat of a nuclear Iran. The greatest threat being posed to the Jewish State of Israel today is the inability of its educational system to produce proud, caring and knowledgeable Jews."

Batya points out that noplace in the world is truly safe, and argues that she feels safer in Shiloh than anywhere else she can imagine. On her other blog, she argues that Israelis should donate to those displaced by the disengagement, instead of to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The author of Israelity writes a very funny post about bouncing checks in Israel, and bemoans the new law which will obligate her to actually balance her checkbook again.

Mobius writes, in struggles in avodat haShem, about his first days of yeshiva and his wrestles with halakha, Talmud study, kavvanah, and heart.

Shoshanna of Sweet Rose wonders, is romance real?

Rahel of Elms in the Yard writes about a sign she saw near Machane Yehuda which forbids tour guides from making "statements containing incitement or hatred regarding past or present inhabitants, their way of life or the Torah," and wonders what that might mean, exactly.

The author of Biur Chametz responds to columns by Hillel Halkin in this post -- and argues, among other things, that there should be "No peace in our time, no rosy horizons, not until our enemies have geniunely undergone fundamental changes."

In Make Love, Not War?, the author of Out of Step Jew muses on kids who do what they can to avoid the army, and wonders whether they're using ideology as an excuse to mask social problems and fears. (His line about the challenge of the "make love, not war" stance for kids who are shomrei negiah made me laugh.)

And I'll close with this beautiful series of Gaza photos taken by Lisa of On the Face.

Oh, and one last thing, though it's not directly related to Judaism or Israel: a link to the ubercarnival page at Truth Laid Bear, in case you want to browse other carnivals like this one.

Shavua tov -- a good week to you all!

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