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Friday, July 24, 2015

ISIS and Eric Hoffer

Two things Eric Hoffer said struck me as particularly relevant to the ISIS phenomenon.

From Wiki:
Hoffer argued that fanatical and extremist cultural movements, whether religious or political, arose under predictable circumstances: when large numbers of people come to believe that their individual lives are worthless and ruined, that the modern world is irreparably corrupt, and that hope lies only in joining a larger group that demands radical changes.

And something he's quoted as saying-
"You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you."

So the ISIS tactic of public atrocity and public execution, and their taking and selling their female captives as chattel, is a good indicator that it is precisely such things that they fear most.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Chanuka Gift from my Shiur

I am blessed with a chevra of good friends and good talmidim.  They all know that there is no need to buy me presents, but over all of my objections, they often express their friendship, and their appreciation for the shiur, through generous and creative gifts.  Last Chanuka, they bought me a massive snow blower.  This year, reason prevailed (though it was a close call, as you'll see below,) and they bought me a beautiful hand-made (and very substantial) sterling mezuza case by the artist Michael Kupietzky.

The interesting thing, and proof positive that my shiur is unique, is that when I spoke to my wife on the phone, she asked me what the shiur gave me, and I told her, a beautiful sterling mezuza case, and she asked "Why?"   I answered, truthfully, that the guys told me that it was because they wouldn't ship the crossbow to Illinois.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Patriotic Menora

Mark Urbin's photo, taken at the National Heritage Museum.  The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library in Lexington, MA, is an American history museum founded and supported by the Scottish Rite Freemasons in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. I don't know its provenance.

The figures are standing upon a star-spangled surface, over layers of red, white, and blue.

In response to my inquiry, I received this from Ms. Hilary Anderson Stelling, Director of Exhibitions and Audience Development at the Museum:

I believe this object was displayed in an exhibition called “American Visions of Liberty and Freedom” that was on view at the Museum from July-October 2006.  The Virginia Historical Society organized the exhibition.  The object is not part of our collection—from a photo caption in the book that accompanied the exhibition, the menorah appears to have been part of a private collection.  There is not much information about the object in the publication.  I can check the archives for the exhibition labels if you are curious to see if there is further information available.  Since the menorah is not in our collection, we don’t have any requests about crediting the photograph on your blog—but I appreciate your taking the time to ask!  If you are looking for a place to start for with a caption, the photograph in the publication (attached) notes the artist’s name, etc. 

 Ms. Stelling kindly attached a pdf of a book in which the menora is titled "Mother of Exiles" and attributed to Mae Rockland Tupa, 1995, from the collection of Marie L and Robert J. Cotton.

Ms. Rockland Tupa is a resident of Brookline, Massachusets.  If she's a neighbor, tell her you saw her menora on Havolim.

A reader directed me to a page at the Smithsonian Website, which has another expression of this concept.  Thank you, R' DL.
To me, and this point is made at that website, there is something particularly poignant in seeing this menora, which was made by a holocaust survivor that immigrated to the United States.  For a man like that, and for many others like him, the statue of liberty was a potent symbol; it embodied the spirit of a country that defeated the Nazis, and, unlike his neighbors in the old country who had murderously turned on him, welcomed him and enabled him to make a new life.  Some accuse United States citizens of the sin of "exceptionalism."  That accusation is nothing more than envy cloaked as criticism.

I am aware that some might see an incongruity in celebrating our victory over the Hellenists with a statue of the human form that reflects the Grecian aesthetic.  It doesn't bother me.  A symbol is what you make of it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

So the New York Times is Not Entirely Useless

From an article on December 11 2014. We might never have known about Slivovitz and Gribenes.

Although rendering poultry fat is a simple task for chefs, the technique is a lost art for many home cooks. To help remedy this, Alana Newhouse, the editor of Tablet magazine, has an annual schmaltz-making party at her home in Brooklyn that she calls the “schmixer.”
Not only does she show people how to make traditional schmaltz, she also encourages guests to flavor individual batches with herbs, spices and even chiles. Everyone takes home a small Mason jar of the gorgeous fat.
All her guests love it. “One can easily peg this to nostalgia, and maybe that’s part of it,” Ms. Newhouse said. “But it’s also real engagement.”She added that the newfound interest in schmaltz may parallel the resurgence of interest in tradition among Jews in their 20s and 30s, who, unlike their immigrant forebears, are not afraid that a display of Jewishness is a threat to their American identity. And schmaltz is delicious, which can come as a surprise to the uninitiated.
But the real showstoppers at the party, Ms. Newhouse said, are the gribenes, which guests wash down with shots of slivovitz, Eastern European plum brandy.
“There’s nothing quite like a slivovitz-gribenes high,” she said. “It turns out our ancestors were quite wise.”

Friday, September 05, 2014

Two Magazine Covers: Light and Darkness

In this time, when everyone in the world is being given the choice to make the final decision whether to join the forces of absolute good or absolute evil, here are two magazine covers.  The first below came out today.  The other magazine cover is from several years ago, but the subject of the article has been in the news again in the last several weeks, and I think he's going to be showing up in the mainstream press very soon.  I, and the individuals portrayed below, happen to have all been born the same year.

Yeshaya 45:
אני ה' ואין עוד זולתי אין אלקים; אאזרך ולא ידעתני.  למען ידעו ממזרח שמש וממערבה כי אפס בלעדי:  אני ה' ואין עוד.  יוצר אור ובורא חשך עשה שלום ובורא רע; אני ה' עשה כל אלה

I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God: I will strengthen you although you have not known Me.
In order that they know from the shining of the sun and from the west that there is no one besides Me; I am the Lord and there is no other.
I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create evil; I am the Lord, I make all these.

The caption reads "The Kaplan Way."
This is Harav Tzvi Kaplan, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Kodshim in Eretz Yisrael, which combines the lomdus of Brisk and the mussar of his grandfather Reb Yerucham and the Mir.  He exhibits, and expects from his talmidim, absolute ameilus in iyun and hasmada and Yiras Shamayim, and he's a true baal chesed and rachaman.  He is holding up his right hand, his fist is closed over intangible, but powerful, words of Torah, and he is inspiring his students to become decent, holy, spiritual people.


This caption reads "The Kaplan Case."
  Lehavdil elef havdalos, this is Metin Kaplan, called the Caliph of Cologne.  He is a bloody murderer.  As I said, he's in the news again, and my guess is that he will find a way out and join the leadership of ISIL.
He is holding up his right hand, his fist is closed over a sword, and he is inspiring his followers to wage a bloody war against anyone that does not share their particular brand of soul-deadening, conscious-cauterizing dementia.

 Kaplan, in Turkish, means Tiger, and it's a name his father, whose birth name was Hacaoglu, chose, so the coincidence probably doesn't mean anything, just one of those things.  Who knows?  The Ribono shel Olam runs the world.  In any case, it shines a bright light on the contrast.   As Chazal (AZ 17b) say,  אי סייפא לא ספרא ואי ספרא לא סייפא.  Also, there is the Medrash (Bechukosai 35:6)  
תני בשם ר' אלעזר הסייף והספר ניתנו מכורכין מן השמים אמר להם הקדוש ברוך הוא אם שמרתם מה שכתוב בספר זה הרי אתם ניצולים מן הסייף ואם לאו סוף שהוא הורג אתכם
It all boils down to the same thing.  If the sword, not the book.  If the book, not the sword. 

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Our Adopted Fledgling

Walking from my mother's house to ours, my grandchildren found a young bird hiding in the bushes.  It had fallen out of its nest, and although it had feathers and wasn't injured, it couldn't fly. I warned them that it is almost impossible to keep fallen birds alive, and that most likely it would die within a few days, but they brought it home anyway.

We decided that it was a cedar waxwing, and the kids spent a great deal of time finding bugs and berries, including pieces of cherries from our refrigerator.

Remarkably, it did survive the week, somewhat bedraggled, and began to fly around the porch.  When I would go outside in the morning, it would be there impatiently waiting.  Once, it hopped on to my shoulder.  When I tried to wave it off, it hopped on to my yarmulka, and it was in no mood to get off.

Finally, we convinced the kids to let it go, and after a few days of false starts and hops into the neighbor's back yard, they put it into a basket wedged into the crotch of a mulberry tree, and it seemed to settle into its wild life.

This morning, I went outside to clean out the barbecues, and I heard a high pitched warble from above my head.  Our waxwing was sitting on the door frame and expecting to be fed.  It fluttered down to the barbecue, and my granddaughter came out.  It got very excited, fluttering its wings and opening its mouth, and it consumed several cherries.  Between the demands of our newest grandchild and this waxwing, it's been lively around here.  From other waxwings that I've seen, they're very social birds.  I do hope that the bird eventually meets others of its kind and accepts the fact that it's not a human.

After breakfast, it went back to its nest, and had brunch there.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mussar: A Comedy of Errors, and Why Nekudot Matter.

I saw this article in Bechadrei Chareidim, on July 31, 2014.  It deserves contemplation.

מה קורה ב'ארומה': חיילת כונתה 'זבל'
חיילת כונתה בקבלה 'זבל' • עובד לכאורה של הרשת, הביע שמחה על הרג חיילים • הרשת מנסה להסביר
אלי שלזינגר 13:21 31/07/2014
קצינה מחיל האוויר שהגיעה אתמול בשעה 18:35 במדים לסניף של ארומה בהרצליה, כתבה בדף הפייסבוק של "ארומה", כי המוכר העונה לשם סעדאת בחר להתעלם משמה "והדביק לי שם חדש..".

הקצינה, צירפה לפוסט את תמונת הקבלה שקיבלה מהמוכר, עליה נרשם שמה בכינוי מעליב במיוחד "זבל". הפוסט שכתבה, גרר למעלה מ-1,200 שיתופים וכ-3,500 לייקים.

לדבריה, היא הזמינה קולה זירו. וכשהביטה בקבלה, הופתעה לגלות שבמקום שמה האמיתי היה מצוין שם גנאי. "סניף ארומה הרצליה מסביר פנים לקציני צה"ל..." כתבה באירוניה.

בעקבות כך, דף הפייסבוק של החברה הוצף בעשרות פוסטים בהם קראו הגולשים לצלצל לסניף ולדרוש את פיטורי העובד. בנסיון להשיג את תגובת הסניף, מספר הטלפון היה תפוס במשך מספר שעות.

מ'ארומה' נמסר בתגובה: "הבוקר קיבלנו תלונות רבות על מקרה שארע בסניף ארומה בהרצליה פיתוח. נטען כי אחד מעובדי הסניף קרא לקצינה בצה"ל בשם גנאי, דבר אשר אינו מתקבל על הדעת לכל אדם באשר הוא, לכל לקוח באחד מסניפי הרשת ובמיוחד לא בימים טעונים אלו.

"יצאנו לברר את המקרה בדחיפות המירבית. ניסינו ליצור קשר עם הלקוחה אשר פירסמה את הפוסט, אם כי עד עתה לא קיבלנו מענה. ביררנו את המקרה יחד עם זכיין הסניף, בדקנו את רשימת שמות העובדים, את מצלמות הסניף, את הקופה הרושמת ודיברנו עם העובד שעמד בקופה באותה העת.

"מהבדיקה שערכנו התברר שהעובד שירת שירות צבאי מלא, של 3 שנים ואין לו שום דבר נגד חיילי צה"ל. שמו של העובד אינו השם שצוין על ידי הגולשת. לטענתו, כאשר שאל העובד את הלקוחה לשמה, שמע את השם IZABEL או ZABEL ולכן זהו השם שרשם בחשבונית. העובד התנצל על אי ההבנה, ואף פירסם פוסט בעמוד הפייסבוק שלנו עם התנצלותו.

"בשבועות האחרונים ארומה ישראל תורמת ומפנקת את חיילינו בדרום, וכמובן שאנו מגנים כל ביטוי גנאי מכל סוג שהוא ומתנצלים במידה ומישהו נפגע מהמקרה".
בנוסף, אדם בשם מוחמד נאסר Mohamed Naser, שבפרופיל שלו נכתב כי הינו עובד ברשת ארומה, כתב בפייסבוק "עד כשיו 52 חיילים אולי יגיעו ל-520? כיף".

ברשת ארומה אומרים "אנו מגנים כל פוסט המבטא דברי גנאי, אלימות וגזענות. אנו כמובן מתייחסים לפניות הגולשים בכובד ראש, בודקים כל פוסט אליו הופננו באופן מעמיק ויסודי ומגיבים בהתאם ועם כל הכלים העומדים לרשותנו".

"כרגע, מבדיקה שערכנו לא נמצא כי הפרופיל של מוחמד נאסר אכן שייך לעובד ארומה.
כמו כל בית ישראל, אנו מקווים לשבועות שקטים ושכל חיילינו יחזרו הביתה בשלום".

בעקבות העלאת הנושא, אנשים נוספים התלוננו, ואדם בשם Nir Dominitz‏ כתב "אני מגויס תחת צו 8. אתמול בערב, חבר ליחידה ואני, שנינו קצינים במדים, נכנסנו לסניף ארומה בכוכב יאיר.
כשהגענו לראש התור, עובד הדלפק בשם סלאח ביקש שיחליפו אותו. אני מציין את זה כנקודה למחשבה".

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Light Vice Versa Verse

"How odd / Of God / To choose / The Jews."
         British journalist (and communist) William Norman Ewer, 1885-1976

“It’s not so odd.  The Jews chose God.”
        -variously attributed

"But not so odd / As those who choose
A Jewish God / Yet spurn the Jews."
        -reply from Cecil Browne

“Not odd of God. / Goyim annoy 'im”
        Leo Rosten's perfect final words on the subject

Sunday, June 08, 2014

An Oral History of the Invasion at Normandy

I've had the great honor of having Mr. Lothar Kahn in my shiur for the past twenty seven years.  Before coming to my shiur, he attended my father's shiur for fifteen years.  Mr. Kahn came to the US from Germany in 1940, and three years later, at nineteen, he found himself on the beach in Normandy as a member of the combat engineers.

The recent article about Mr. Kahn in the Huffington Post is good, but there are many, many other amazing and wonderful stories about his years in the army that are not in the article.  While part of the Allied government, he founded the post war Jewish community in Bamberg, and as a native German speaker was a tremendous asset to the Jews and to the Allies.

One example of a story that didn't make it into the article- Mr. Kahn had the bad luck to be assigned to a unit that was entirely composed of Southerners- from Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and so forth.  Picture a young man with a German accent, coming from New York, joining this cadre of rebels.  He was immediately labeled a "Damn Yankee."  But this was only until they found out he was a Jew.  At that point, he became a Damn Yankee Jew."  They did everything to make his life miserable, until he finally picked out the biggest one among them, who hated him more than any of the others, and told him, look, we're going to fight it out.  So the other one put up his hands and began boxing.  Mr. Kahn said, if we want to prove who's strongest, we really ought to wrestle, because that proves strength more than boxing.  The guy said fine, I'll kill you either way.  Mr. Kahn was an athlete who had a great deal of experience wrestling, and he soon had the man on the ground with his boot on his neck.  He said, "Am I still a damn Yankee Jew?"  The guy said, no, not any more you're not.

Here's the article, from the Huffington Post.

D-Day Veteran's Brother Was Holocaust's First Jewish Victim

Lothar Kahn, D-Day Plus 70 Years

Lothar Kahn's backstory has all the ingredients of a Hollywood movie -- the Jew from Nazi Germany who returns in the vanguard of war to face his sworn enemies on D-Day. Inglorious Basterds proved it a marketable plot-line, but the reality is far more tragic, complex, and even unremarkable. But Kahn has, in fact, lived two of the most compelling narratives of the 20th century: the Holocaust and the D-Day invasion.
Seventy years ago, on June 6, T/3 Kahn approached the Normandy coast in an LCM filled with 28 seasick army engineers from the 146th Engineer Combat Battalion and sailors from a Naval Combat Demolition Unit. Orders were to land at low tide on "easy green" and destroy all obstacles -- Belgian Gates, posts capped with Teller mines, and rows of steel hedgehogs -- and create gaps for the infantry.

Gap Assault Team from the 146th ECB prior to the invasion
"[The 146th] landed in the first wave with floating tanks from the 741st and 743rd Tank Battalions, literally, in the first minutes of the invasion," said Joseph Balkoski, author of Omaha Beach: D-Day, June 6, 1944.
After weeks of rehearsals in Devon, the army's V Corps selected the Kahn's outfit to lead the initial assault on D-Day.
Some may even call it poetic justice, but Kahn's Gap Assault Team No. 7 could not effectively perform their tasks.
"The engineers knew very well that they would have 30-40 minutes to blow the obstacles because the tide was rising."
The settling smoke and dust from the massive Allied bombardment, which ended minutes earlier, afforded a clear view of Omaha Beach, but not the catastrophe that awaited them.
"The minute we jumped out of the boats the shooting started," Kahn told us. "Two or three German machine guns, overlapping, and raking the beach. All you heard was, 'Get off the beach, you're gonna be dead ducks' and then I was on my own."
The 19-year-old combat engineer lumbered under the weight of a rifle, helmet, a Hagensen pack crammed with wire cutters, gas mask, cartridges, an inflatable life belt, a canteen, drenched fatigues, and 50 pounds of C2 plastic explosives, with hooks and rope. He miraculously made it in one piece, beside a cluster of drenched and petrified Americans.
"I got against a cliff with six, eight people and there were guys lying around. I said to someone, 'Boy these guys must be tired' ... 
'Tired? These are dead people.' When I heard that, I jumped up and the guy pulled me down and yelled, 'Don't jump up you'll get shot.' I had never seen a dead person before and they were all around me."

Gemünden am Main, Germany

Kahn's path to D-Day was an odyssey in itself, which began in the lower Franconia region of Germany in a small town called Gemünden. The youngest son of Levi and Martha Kahn's four children, Kahn was expelled from public school the year he turned nine.
"The Jewish boys and girls were put in the last row, the teachers didn't ask us anything, and then they kicked us out of school altogether." Kahn told us. "I had to get up at 5 a.m. to catch an hour-long cattle train to a Jewish school in Thüngen, when it was dark and cold in winter time."
Like most Jewish youngsters who once imagined intellectual and professional careers at the time, Kahn instead traded his books for practical vocational training -- first becoming a locksmith and then a machinist.
The extermination of European Jews may have been formally outlined at the Wannsee Conference in 1942, but the Holocaust was immediate for the Kahn family when the eldest son, Arthur, was murdered in Dachau 10 weeks after Hitler became chancellor.

Arthur Kahn, and his gravestone

"Apparently [Arthur Kahn] was involved in anti-Nazi movements at the University at Wurzburg -- which was very typical of Jewish students at the time," said Timothy Ryback, author of Hitler's First Victims.

"The astonishing story is that he was planning on going into medicine -- cancer research -- had been studying abroad at Edinburgh University, and while back at Wurzburg getting his student records, was spotted by some brown-shirted SA, was snatched and put into a detention center. During Easter week, 1933, Arthur Kahn and three others, Ernst Goldmann, Rudolf Benario and Erwin Kahn arrived at Dachau. They were identified as Jews on arrival and beaten terribly. Five minutes after five o'clock on the afternoon of Wednesday, April 12, these young men were given shovels, marched out into the woods, and just gunned down. Arthur was the first one shot. These were the first four victims of the Holocaust. Their deaths involved intentionality, chain of command, selection, and execution, which are the constituent components for these processes we call genocide, and ultimately related to the Jewish population, the Holocaust."
Levi Kahn had to pay money to get his son's body out of Dachau for a proper Jewish burial. Even worse, Arthur's mother insisted that his sister, Fanni, an Au pair in England, return to Germany immediately. She eventually married and was later killed with her 7-year-old son in Minsk.

Thanks to relatives in the U.S., the family managed to obtain visas and emigrate to New York, minus two children, four weeks before the war broke out. Kahn immediately went to work to support his family and, like his brother Herbert, was drafted into the military in 1943.

Lothar and Herbert Kahn

Just as his Jewishness was sufficient to designate him a pariah in Germany, his vocational training there had everything to do with his eventual M.O.S (Military Occupation Specialty) and assignment to an engineer outfit.
"In England they put us in control of Assault Training Center in Saunton Sands. All of the divisions preparing for the invasion came through us. We built obstacles, they blew them up and we built them again. It was very hard work. During training I was carrying a full pack of dynamite and collapsed when a captain stood over me and asked, 'Soldier, do you smoke?' I told him that I did and he said, 'well, you have a choice. You can keep on smoking and get your ass shot off on the beach or you can stop smoking and you have a chance of getting off the beach.' That scared the daylights out of me and I stopped."
After weeks of rehearsals in Devon the army's V Corps of Engineers selected the Kahn's outfit to lead the initial assault on D-Day.
The irony of one brother being the first Jew murdered by Nazi policy, and his baby brother landing at H-Hour in possibly the key event to bring about Hilter's defeat is nothing short of ironic. Some may even call it poetic justice, but Kahn's Gap Assault Team No. 7 were unable to function once they jumped out of the landing crafts and infantry took cover behind the obstacles they were tasked to destroy. The first 30 minutes of the invasion amounted to total disaster. Hundreds of bodies of dead combat engineers, tankers, sailors, and infantryman peppered nearly three miles of Omaha Beach's tile flat. Wounded men drifting in the rising tide were too weak to fight the current and drowned in the surf, as German artillery and small-arms fire mowed down wave after wave of infantry.

"All I could hear was, 'Help me, help me,'" said Kahn. "We couldn't blow anything because behind us were Americans and they'd be killed. The floating tanks were picked off like ducks and the Rangers couldn't get through either. All I could do was try and stay alive until the infantry could eliminate the small-arms fire."

At 90, Kahn, who lives in Lincolnwood, Illinois, still speaks with a slight German accent, but his D-Day account reads like any other American veteran who landed on Omaha Beach at H-Hour. And by 1944, he was every bit the "citizen soldier" -- a term the late Stephen E Ambrose ascribed to Americans he dramatically asserted "wanted to throw baseballs, not grenades, shoot a .22 rifle, not an M-1." However entertaining the prose, the late historian wasn't entirely accurate.
Questions about revenge naturally arise when hearing the stories of veterans such as Kahn, who had long suffered under Nazism before fleeing Germany. 

"I knew they killed my brother. That I knew. Revenge, certainly, but I didn't want to get killed either. In those moments, especially on D-Day, it's a matter of preserving life. In fact, a day after the invasion they got me to interview some German prisoners (machine gunners) who told me, 'We killed them and they kept coming, there was nothing we could do.'"

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Kedoshim, and a Plan for a New Restaurant: FLAG Kosher

In consideration of the limits of internet attention spans, I have to make this clear from the beginning:
The Divrei Torah are valid, and the beginning and the end are serious, but the middle is written satirically, ironically.  The purpose of the post is to raise an important question, to highlight issues, and to stimulate intelligent and informed conversation.

On Pesach, our family discussed the marvelous products of food science available now- items that have no grain or kitnios but look and taste exactly like bread.  With a palette of various root starches and quinoa, and the use of chemicals and appliances that can make smoke into a brittle foam, making kosher for Pesach ersatz white bread and bagels and pizza is becoming practically quotidian.  The illusion improves every year; a friend told me that at one of the programs where kosher for Pesach beigels were offered, he saw a guest wash and say hamotzi on his shehakol bagel.

I was told that before Pesach, Rabbi Elefant was interviewed on a Jewish radio station in New York, and he said that one factor in the OU allowing quinoa was that quinoa is the only reasonable alternative to rice for making sushi, and if they couldn't make sushi, the caterers that run Pesach programs would lose a lot of money- ergo, hefsed meruba and the decision of the OU to be mattir.  It's easy to self-righteously say that such chametz replacements are inappropriate, and not in keeping with the spirit of the issur chametz.  But who among us doesn't have Shick's seven layer cake, or rainbow cookies?  They look like chametz too.  Our Mexican cleaning lady, who has gone through eighteen Pesachs with us, was shocked when she saw them.  But by now, we're all pretty used to them, and to other pseudo-foods, such as Bacos.

Instead of merely reacting instinctively, let's think about what issues may be relevant, and then decide whether the issues are problematic.

1.  Mar'is Ayin- it is assur to behave in a way where a reasonable observer might think you are doing a sin.
2.  Foods that the Torah prohibited are disgusting, and foods that mimic them ought to be equally disgusting to the Jewish sensibility.  Eating them diminishes our refinement, it makes us callous.
3.  If one eats what looks and tastes like a prohibited food, it weakens the psychological barrier and increases the likelihood he will eat real issurim.
4.  Issurei achila serve to create a vital psychological and social barrier between us and the gentiles, and without that barrier, our sense of separateness, our unique identity, will be attenuated.

Issue 1.  Mar'is Ayin.
The Gemara (Kerisus 21b) says that if you serve a container of fish blood, you must make it evident that it is not from an animal by floating some scales in it.  The Maharshal in Kol Habasar says that similarly, when you serve chicken in almond milk, as was the local minhag on Purim, you must have some blanched almonds in or near the milk so that nobody mistakes it for real milk.  The Rama in 87 argues with the Maharshal and says that this is only necessary by meat, not chicken, which is at worst an issur derabannan.  This is why some caterers put placards next to coffee whitener at a fleishikeh meal.

Even more lekulah, the Pri Chadash (there in YD 87 on the Rama) holds that we don't prohibit based on Maris Ayin beyond what we find explicitly prohibited in Chazal. True, many poskim disagree (such as Reb Moshe in the Igros OC 3:25 and the Maharik 115 and poskim brought in the Shaarei Teshuva OC 460:10,) but in any case, everyone agrees that all that matters is that people not make the mistake of thinking that what you're eating is treif.  The fact that it looks and tastes treif doesn't matter.  If everyone realizes that it is not really what it looks like, there is no problem of Mar'is Ayin.  This is why Pesach beigels and white bread, and soy bacon, and pepperoni and cheese pizzas, are all muttar.

Issue 2.  Foods that the Torah prohibited are disgusting, and foods that mimic them ought to be equally disgusting to the Jewish sensibility.  Eating them diminishes our refinement, it makes us callous.
Rashi in our Parsha brings from the Torah Kohanim the following:
 ואבדל אתכם מן העמים להיות לי
אם אתם מובדלים מהם הרי אתם שלי, ואם לאו הרי אתם של נבוכדנצר וחבריו 
רבי אלעזר בן עזריה אומר: מנין שלא יאמר אדם נפשי קצה בבשר חזיר, אי אפשי ללבוש כלאים, אבל יאמר אפשי, ומה      אעשה ואבי שבשמים גזר עלי  תלמוד לומר: ואבדיל אתכם מן העמים להיות לי, שתהא הבדלתכם מהם לשמי. פורש מן העבירה ומקבל עליו עול מלכות שמים
And I have distinguished you from the peoples, to be Mine:
If you are separated from them [through your observance of Torah], you will be Mine, but if not, you will belong to Nebuchadnezzar and his kind.
Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah says: How do we know that a person should not say, “I find pork disgusting,” or “It is impossible for me to wear kilayim,” but rather, one should say, “I indeed wish to, but what can I do-my Father in heaven has imposed these decrees upon me?” Because Scripture says here, “And I have distinguished you from the peoples, to be Mine”-your very distinction from the other peoples must be for My Name, separating yourself from transgression and accepting upon yourself the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven. — [Toras Kohanim 20:128]
The Toras Kohanim says that one should not say he is disgusted by pork, or kilayim.  Instead, he should say that they might be very enjoyable, but he refrains only because Hashem so commanded us.
If so, there is nothing wrong with saying you'd like to eat all these things that are assur, and if you can find a way that you can eat them without an issur, it is fine.
True, the Rambam says this only applies to chukim- מצוות שמעיות- and maybe bugs are different.  After all, we have Reb Yishmael (BM 62a) that says
דתנא דבי רבי ישמעאל אמר הקב"ה אילמלא העליתי את ישראל ממצרים אלא בשביל דבר זה שאין מטמאין בשרצים דיי א"ל ומי נפיש אגרייהו טפי מרבית ומציצית וממשקלות א"ל אע"ג דלא נפיש אגרייהו טפי מאיסי למכלינהו
so maybe שרצים are inherently disgusting.  But at least Chazir is clearly in the "assur but desirable" column.
What about blood?  The Seforno puts blood in the desirable column, too.  From Devarim 12:25-
רק חזק לבלתי אכל הדם - - לא תאכלנו למען ייטב לך ולבניך אחריך כי תעשה הישר בעיני ה׳. - - וכאשר תמנע מלאכול לא יהיה זה כמואס בו, אבל כדי שתעשה הישר בעיני ה׳, כאמרם ז״ל אל יאמר אדם קצה נפשי בבשר אסור אבל יאמר איפשי ואבי שבשמים גזר עלי

Issue 3.  If one gets used to eating what looks and tastes like it's assur, it weakens the psychological barrier and increases the likelihood he will eat real issurim.
We have what I call the Shibuta rule.  The Gemara in Chulin 109 brings a conversation between Yalta and her husband, Rav Nachman, which teaches that everything that for everything that is assur there is an equivalent that is muttar..
אמרה ליה ילתא לרב נחמן מכדי כל דאסר לן רחמנא, שרא לן כוותיה. אסר לן דמא- שרא לן כבדא. נדה- דם טוהר. חלב בהמה- חלב חיה. חזיר- מוחא דשיבוטא. גירותא- לישנא דכוורא. אשת איש- גרושה בחיי בעלה. אשת אח- יבמה. כותית יפת תאר. בעינן למיכל בשרא בחלבא! אמר להו רב נחמן לטבחי זויקו לה כחלי
It appears that Rav Nachman wasn't worried about getting used to eating things that taste assur.  She was curious what bassar b'chalav tasted like, and he didn't reprimand her.  He simply got some K'chal for her to eat.  (Or it just wasn't smart to get into an argument with her; see Brachos 51b, and Tosfos Beitza 25b DH שאני ילתא.  Also, she was the daughter of the Reish Gelusa.)
Anyway, that is everyone's complaint about making an Eiruv.  Kids will grow up carrying on Shabbos, and they'll never learn to be careful, and they'll end up carrying without an eiruv.  This concern never stopped anyone from building an eiruv.  It's just געבורטשעט.
Also, let's remember that the Gemara in Kerisus we brought above in Issue 1 says it's muttar to consume a container of fish blood, so long as the mar'is ayin problem is removed, and nowhere does anyone say that one should avoid it for reasons of mussar.

Issue 4.  Issurei achila serve to create a vital psychological and social barrier between us and the gentiles, and without that barrier, our sense of separateness, our unique identity, will be attenuated.
I want to point out that precisely in the Rashi that says how important it is to be culturally separated from the Gentiles, Rashi brings the Toras Kohanim about liking Chazir and only not eating it because of Hashem's commandment.
ואבדל אתכם מן העמים להיות לי  אם אתם מובדלים מהם הרי אתם שלי, ואם לאו הרי אתם של נבוכדנצר וחבריו. 
It appears that the הבדלה is that we keep Hashem's mitzvos.  There is no spirit of the law other than being faithful to Hashem's commandments.  Kosher is kosher, and the only barrier that matters is keeping the Mitzvos.

There does not seem to be any problem at all eating things that look and taste like they are assur, so long as what's going on is clear and there is no mar'is ayin issue.  The Gemara in Kerisus says there's no problem serving a container of fish blood; Rav Nachman gave Yalta udder meat to satisfy her desire to taste basar b'chalav.

What we need now is a practical and profitable application of this concept.  We need a restaurant that is dedicated to providing the Treif experience to Orthodox Jews.  Imagine a menu that offers pepperoni pizza, pork chops, cheeseburgers, shrimp or lobster salad, clam soup, bouillabaisse with all different kinds of mieseh shrotzim, bagels and white bread on Pesach... the list of chazerai is endless.

  • We could add the half-raw Tartimar Tartare Burger, served with Italian wine- a nice citrusy Trebbiano Toscano.  This would be large enough to satisfy the weight requirement of the half-raw meat (a tartimar) that makes a person a Ben Sorer U'Moreh.  The din of Ben Soreir u"Moreh, of course, only applies if the person who eats it is thirteen years old, and he bought the meat with money he stole from his father.  For everyone else, being a zolel v'sovei is not a problem.  And the truth is that a Tarteimar of meat is really not that much- not more than nine or ten ounces of meat as served.
  • If members of the wait staff are married women, we would have them wear Sheitlach that are indistinguishable from natural hair.
  • During sefira, glatt kosher a cappella sefirah music will be played.

A good business plan needs a name.  What shall we call this restaurant?  (Dr. Nachum calls it a bistro.  Maybe he's right- It's more of a tapas thing than a formal sit down.)

Here are some thoughts.

1.  Naval, subtitled Birshus HaTorah.  If we go with Naval, the accent should be on the Val, to make it sound French.  Nah-Val'.  Maybe NaValle, in cursive script.
2.  HaKol Be'Ha'arama Nishma.
3.  Kosher Triple Treif.
4.  Mar'is Ayin.
5.  Abizraihu (אביזרייהו).
6.  Reshock.  (That's Kosher, backwards.)
7.  My favorite-  FLAG Kosher.  FLAG stands for Fress Like A Goy.

Based on his introduction to our parsha, I guess the Ramban would not eat at our restaurant.  You have to be realistic about your demographic.  But even the Ramban would agree that it's kosher.  He might even give the hashgacha.

Someone told me that I'm thinking too small.  An idea like this shouldn't be limited to a restaurant- it should be a line of food that specializes in imitation maachalos assuros, festooned with hechsheirim.  (To add to the kashrus standard, it will not have a sell-by date, and it will have a little trans-fat, because what do the doctors know.)  FLAG Kosher- Coming soon to your local grocery store!

 But we can still have a restaurant.  We will call the restaurant The FLAGship.

This is a real opportunity.  As H. L. Mencken (not related to Rabbi Yaakov) is quoted as having said, "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public."

Because there might be someone out there there are definitely people out there that doesn't don't do well with sarcasm, I need to point out that this is not a serious suggestion.  It is a mixture of sophistry and irony, a culinary innovation in the spirit of Swift's Modest Proposal.  Despite the manner of presentation, the question of where to draw the line is truly serious and complicated, and there is no definitive right or wrong, just as קדושים תהיו has no bright line definition.  It is a question that every individual has to answer for himself and his family.

There are a few more points that ought to be added.

Nobody wants to eat imitation poisonous or rotten or malodorous food.   The fear and revulsion caused by the real thing results in a similar revulsion at an imitation.  Many people feel that treif food is repugnant.  After all, Chazal say that מאכלות אסורות cause טמטום הלב, and if they cause טמטום הלב, if eating them is so injurious to the soul, then one ought to be repelled by even looking at them or anything that looks like them.   However, as we have discussed long ago, טמטום הלב is not at all simple.  Although many say that it comes from the nature of the treif food, many others (Reb Moshe and the Briskers) say that it is a result of the issur, not the nature of the food.  If it's muttar, it's not מטמטם את הלב.  If it's just the issur and not the nature of the food, food that looks like treifus should not be repulsive.

Furthermore, one might say that the Toras Kohanim brought in Rashi above teaches a tremendous lesson: when the Torah prohibits a food, it is not that the food is horrible.  The food is fine, but we won't eat it because we listen to the Ribono shel Olam, we are disciplined, not superstitious.  So now, here's an experiment.  Two people are faced with some tremendous yeitzer hara, and the yeitzer hara is very attractive and seductive, refined, intelligent, and perfumed- think about what Yosef HaTzadik faced.  Both people are kadosh and tahor.  One person's life-long scrupulous avoidance of issurei achila reflects a visceral disgust of issurim.  The other person was equally scrupulous, but he always felt that issurim are attractive and enjoyable, but he avoided them because the Ribono shel Olam told him to stay away from them.  Now they are both faced with a dvar issur that is a supreme physical and mental pleasure.  Which one of them is more likely to overcome his yeitzer hara?

But you have to wonder.  I think that the only attraction of these ersatz issurim is the thrill of the illicit.  If a person is happy and proud to be a member of the Mamleches Kohanim, why would he have even be interested in tasting things that are assur?  If you're happy in your marriage, why are you even thinking about other women?  What is the thrill in experiencing what Gentiles experience?  Are there not enough kosher foods that we can eat that we need to duplicate things that are assur because of the thrill?  Is this another case of והאספסוף אשר בקרבו התאוו תאוה?  Wanting to eat these things may not be a problem, but it may be a symptom of a problem.

There is something to be said for לא שינו את שמם/לשונם/מלבושם, even regarding things that are muttar, simply because of the cultural barrier.   Rabbi Yissochor Frand came across a most remarkable validation of this concept, as follows:

The following is excerpted from a column by the rabbi of a Reform congregation in Miami, Florida:
"We think that intermarriage leads to assimilation, but it is the other way around. We marry people like ourselves. The average middle-class Jew is as different from the average middle class Gentile as your average Hutu is different from your average Tutsi. I know Rabbis aren't supposed to say things like this. We are supposed to fight assimilation tooth and nail. But to be honest I am about as assimilated as you can get. Put me in a lineup of the average middle class goy [sic] and the only way you could tell us apart is to play a Jackie Mason tape and see who laughs. The truth is our kids don't intermarry. They marry people just like themselves. People who eat stone crabs marry people who eat stone crabs."
The rabbi has it exactly right. People are not intermarrying. They are marrying people exactly like themselves. The reason why a strictly religious person would not contemplate marrying a non-Jew (or vice-versa) is because they are so different. Those who follow the Rabbis' safeguards live in an environment nearly as different from that of the average middle class American non-Jew, as either of those environments are different from that of the average Tutsi. The cross-cultural divide is too great. The groups are too different from each other, so they do not intermarry. It would be like marrying someone from a different planet. But if someone eats like them and talks like them and dresses like them, then it is not intermarriage at all. It is marrying within one's own kind.
As the Ramban says, there is a spectrum from Halacha to Mussar, but it is a mistake to think that Mussar is less important than halacha.  Sometimes, an act can have a  small onesh but can cause terrible spiritual damage.  And finally, even if you have a great deal of knowledge of Torah, there's no substitute for seichel hayashar.