Sunday, June 24, 2007

For The People That Want To Know What The Agudath Israel Does For Judaism!


1 - I'm really serious now, if anyone can introduce to me a bigger behaima, farshtuppte kup, shtik-ferd, and brainless putz in any Orthodox Jewish organization- than Avi Shafran, I'll pay big bucks to meet that individual.

2 - While you're on cafepress.com, be certain to check out the new and improved items at: cafepress.com/yudi. All proceeds will go towards bribing--Jake the flake Perlow-- to dump Shafran out the window at 42 Broadway. BTW, If you know of any other person that is misbehaving, that seems to be a religious individual, please keep me posted.



Rabbi Avi Shafran: Name Abuse - June 22, 2007

There is tragically much chilul Hashem in our world. Whether murder and mayhem in the name of religion or misbehavior on the part of seemingly religious individuals, actions that push holiness away from a world that so direly needs it are considered by the Torah to constitute a singular sin.

Recently, though, a quite literal desecration of Hashem’s name unexpectedly came to my attention. A cataloger at a law school library, Mrs. Elisheva Schwartz, called with a disturbing discovery. She had come across an online vendor seeking to make a few dollars off the marketing of clothing and kitsch bearing the Sheim Hamefurosh.

An English dictionary will call the Sheim the Tetragrammaton, based on the Greek word tetra, meaning “four”; and grammat, meaning “letter.” If it is a good dictionary it might also include the fact that Jewish law considers the Sheim so holy that it is forbidden today to pronounce or ever to treat in anything but a deeply honorable manner. According to halacha, of course, a piece of parchment, paper, cloth or pottery bearing the Sheim must be carefully preserved or solemnly buried. When it occurs in krias haTorah or tefilla, it is not read as written but rather as the less holy Sheim Adnus.

The vendor in question, for reasons unknown, had decided to print the holy Hebrew letters on an assortment of tee shirts, mugs, buttons and other articles, including underclothing and dog sweaters.

We live in a free society, of course, and nothing prevents anyone from exercising his or her right to personal expression, even if it may be offensive to others. But nothing prevents anyone, either, from voicing pain born of such offense. And so I contacted Café Press – a sort of online flea-market that the vendor was using to sell his or her wares – to register Agudath Israel’s chagrin at the commercialization and degradation of Hashem’s name. Please consider making a decision, I wrote, that is “respectful of Jews and Judaism.”

Within hours, what seemed a stock reply arrived. Café Press, it informed, provides its services to “a rich and vibrant community of individuals across the globe who differ in their views about what is considered offensive.”
Well, I’m sure it does and they do. All the same, though, I’m also pretty sure that the site isn’t being used to peddle dog sweaters bearing, say, the Arabic word for Allah.

So I inquired about whether Café Press had any code of standards regarding offensiveness. Again, a reply arrived quickly, directing me to where I could find the company’s standards. To its credit, the code is a responsible and comprehensive document. And one category of prohibited content was: “Material that is generally offensive or in bad taste, as determined by CafePress.com.”

And so I wrote again, reiterating that “from the perspective of all religious (and many less-than-religious) Jews, the placement of G-d’s holy Hebrew name on a piece of apparel, not to mention apparel like underwear or pet sweaters, is profoundly offensive.”

“Which leaves us,” I concluded,“with the ‘as determined by CafePress.com’ clause. “And so I ask: What is your determination?”

That was many days and two more inquiries ago. Thus far, no reply. Perhaps the administrators of the site are in the process of informing the vendor that his or her merchandise doesn’t meet their company’s standards. Or perhaps they are not.

Either way, though, should any readers of these words happen to have access to e-mail and share Mrs. Schwartz’s and my feeling of offense at the commercial debasing of something deeply holy to Judaism, please consider making an inquiry of your own to Café Press.

The address for such communications is cup@cafepress.com . Needless to say, inquiries should be polite and reasoned. And if – as I hope – the company’s response is that the merchandise at issue has been removed from the site, then a sincere expression of hakoras hatov to the company is in order.

In that case, not only Café Press’ decision but our expressions of gratitude will constitute a kiddush Hashem.

[Rabbi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America.]