June 16, 2011 14th of Sivan, 5771
VICTORY: Members of the Varsity Wolfpack team celebrate on court after defeating Bishop Diego 58-51, winning the Southern Section Division 6AA championship. Photo courtesy of Yehudis Schoen Photography
By Yosef Yasmeh To date, there have been ﬁve-hundred ninety-two CIF division champions in the state of California, spanning more than thirty years. This year, however, the annals received a fresh ﬁrst. In a school with a combined one hundred ﬁfty students in its boys and girls divisions, the Valley Torah Wolfpack—champions. Joining the list, the team made Valley Torah High School the ﬁrst Jewish school in the state to win a basketball title. But getting there wasn’t easy. “Practices were four hours long on school nights and an hour long on Saturday nights during
mid-season. So we were going at it six days a week,” said Arynton Hardy, a senior on the team. “It was tiring and intense.” Considering that school is dismissed at 5:45, this meant that practices would end at 11:00. When adding in homework and balancing at least a 3.0 GPA, one really comes to understand what steadfast dedication it took on part of the team to get as far as they did. By the end of the year, the varsity had played thirty games in total, winning twenty-ﬁve of them. In some cases, they came close to losing everything they had worked for, such as the game versus Avalon High in Catalina Island. By
the fourth quarter, the Wolfpack was down by ten points, with Aaron Liberman out on the bench with an injured knee. “I thought we were going to lose, but I knew that it wasn’t an option,” said Nathaniel Liberman. Nor was it a reality. The Wolfpack made it into the ﬁnals to play Bishop Diego on their home turf. However, the trophy wasn’t going to come easy to them, either. The boys went heads down into their locker room during half time, down by nearly ten points. Robert Icart, the head coach, gave the team a pep talk and didn’t let them give up. (Continued on page 7)
An Interview with Mr. Soltis
Conducted By Chushim Botach
would be replaced afterwards. By the end of CB: All right, so this is your last year the year, I was hired to work at a Catholic teaching at Valley Torah. For how many boys school called Loyola High School. They years have you been teaching here in to- ended up being really slow in sending me the contract, and ﬁnally I decided to stay here. tal? That turned into several more years. MS: Five years. CB: What is one of the greatest things CB: Were they good years? that you feel like you’ve contributed to MS: Yeah, of course. the school? CB: So what was your ﬁrst year teaching MS: In my second year, I got to start the AP here like? program here. We had Literature to begin MS: Well, I originally came here thinking that the job would be just for one year and that I with, and then we added Language in my
At The Surface:
A deeper look at the eighteen-student rule By Ben Kiaei Many situations that appear irrational at ﬁrst glance have deeper meanings beyond their surface. With analysis to help elucidate questionable ideas, these matters can be understood without query. Valley Torah High School has recently decided to implement an eighteen-freshman acceptance rule for the 2011 incoming freshman class. On the surface, this regulation seems illogical and unexpected, given the school’s current circumstances. In past years, VT’s student-body population has been dwindling, and it would thus only be logical to accept any qualifying students into the incoming class. The truth is, however, that this specious idea only presents a logical standpoint at the face of the topic; there are deﬁnite and valid reasons behind the seemingly impetuous decision. Above all, an exclusive class of eighteen sanctions a pickand-choose situation that allows VT to create a class of only the top students. The uniting of only the best students will, according to Valley Torah, create a certain “super class” that can excel and grow without unwanted distractions. Moreover, a mere eighteen students requires only one track, which translates into less teachers and a less complex schedule. Although with only one track the beneﬁt of different class options is not available, . . . (Continued on page 5)
third year. Those classes have continued every year until then, which is nice. CB: Since you began teaching here, how do you feel like the school has changed? MS: Smaller—less students. That’s also helped improve the school decorum. We don’t have kids who act crazy walking down the halls nowadays. CB: *Laughs* MS: *Laughs* CB: What did you enjoy most about teaching at a religious Jewish school? What stood out to you? (Continued on page 4)
“Looking back in retrospect, what advice do you give to students who have more high school years ahead of them? ” Assaf Assaraf: “Don’t let little things bother you—always be happy and enjoy the time you have with your friends.”
Yehuda Judah: “Cherish everyday of your high school years, and take the hardest classes you can and challenge yourself—you’re going to have to work at some point in your life.” Aryeh Istrin: “Work hard now, play later. Take all your classes seriously and it’ll pay off in the future, even if you don’t think it will now.” Arynton Hardy: “Take the hardest classes available —especially in math!” Michael Farnoosh: “Always be driven. Be motivated and know what you’re going for.” Eliyahu Moji: “Stop seeing all the teachers and Rebbeim as your antagonists. They’re on your side and they put in a lot of work behind the scenes to make sure that you succeed.” Matt Guillis: “Never give up in your school work. Believe in yourself and always give it your best.” Moshe Reich: “Always—always challenge yourself.” Elias Kawas:: “Don’t sacrifice your entire future by making needless mistakes now. You’ll thank yourself later.” Katriel Sigala: “Do your eleventh grade homework. Don’t ask. Just do it.” Aaron Stibleman: “Always do your work before it’s due. Procrastination is your report card’s enemy.”
“What are you going to miss most about Valley Torah? ”
Assaf Assaraf: “Out of all the things there will be to miss, being with Rabbi Grama is what I’ll miss the most.” Yehuda Judah: My friends. After being with some of these guys for more than four years, not seeing their faces everyday will definitely be something that will take some getting used to.” Aryeh Istrin: “I’m going to have to say that I’ll miss all the kids and teachers here the most. They’re all people that come to get really close to over the years.” Moshe Mintz: “Definitely the basketball program here and being a part of the Wolfpack.” Ezra Teitelbaum: “I’m going to miss all the characters in this school—they’re all so dynamic. I’m going to miss that and being in this atmosphere day in and day out.” Eliyahu Moji: “I’m going to miss all the kids here at Valley Torah. I one-hundred percent, genuinely believe that everyone here at this school is a good person. That you don’t get everywhere.” Matt Guilis: “The baseball team and program. This year it was unforgettable.” Avraham Sloves: “This may be a bit overused, but that doesn’t make it any less true. What I’m going to miss most about Valley Torah is the collective friendship that practically everyone in the school is a part of—from freshman to senior.”
Mr. Rutschman’s Guide to Summer for the College Bound Build a Schedule—Know what you’re doing. Keep a rough schedule of how your going to spend your day, week, and so on. “Make sure not to be a coach potato; use your time productively and intelligently,” said Mr. Rutschman. Maybe you’ll decide to work on a personal project for one whole day; maybe you’ll want to spend some time working on your AP summer assignments every other day. Whatever it is, use a schedule and be in control. Study for the SAT—Everyone’s heard it: college admissions are getting increasingly competitive each year. Thus, colleges are placing more and more emphasis on high SAT scores. Improving your score might not be as hard as you think. Use a study guide (such as the Princeton Review) to familiarize yourself with the test and learn a few tricks that will save you some time on the test. Make sure to take a few practice tests as well, because they will indicate where you need to improve and help boost up your scores. “Starting as early as the ninth grade isn’t a bad idea. Just make sure to hit the tests with your best.”
responsible and capable of sticking to a commitment. Depending on where you will go, you could also meet new people who share similar interests with you. “A couple good places to volunteer are the Friendship Circle (especially for the Judaic crowd), the American Cancer Society, the Red Cross, or your local animal shelter.”
Look into Prospective Careers—Think about what you may or may not want to do with your life. You could do some research or even take a relevant course at a community college, such as Valley College. One of the added beneﬁts of taking a class at a community college is that the credit Volunteer—It’s an amazing tool that’ll build for passing may be your resume and show your leadership skills. counted for university, Volunteering also shows colleges that you’re which could save you
some time in the future. “You’ll also impress prospective universities down the line. So it’s a win-win situation.” If you’re concerned about how well you’ll do in the class, there’s usually the option to take it for no credit or as passfail. Look into Prospective Colleges—Start thinking about where you might want to go after high school. Even if you’re near certain about where you want to go, visit the campus. Plenty of times students love the program or location of a university, only to ﬁnd that they hate the atmosphere. Also be sure to know what courses are required to be taken at your particular college. “If you have any questions you can stop by my ofﬁce and ask.” Read a Book—It won’t kill you. Believe it or not, it’s actually good for you. It’ll build up your vocabulary for the SAT, as well as improve your writing skills. In addition, it will build your cultural literacy and increase your knowledge of the world. Ideally, you should be reading the classics if want all these beneﬁts. Doing a simple Google search would practically provide a great selection of possible novels. Said Mr. Rutschman, “A couple I personally recommend are Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mocking Bird, and Wuthering Heights.” Enjoy your break wisely!
Opinion: By Michael Kawas
A Lost Cause
was seen by many a moment symbolic for the beginning to the road to peace in Israel. But whatever peace there might have On May 19, President Obama stood up been stayed on that stage. For the years to and gave one of the most controversial speechcome, Israel saw a frightfully high rise in teres to date. At ﬁrst, he spoke about the Arab ror, most of which many of us have lived to leaders’ useless attempts to draw eyes away see. Granting our enemies wishes only led to from their own countries’ problems by always thousands of murdered Israelis. This is a fact talking about Israel’s problems. To most Jews, that must not be overlooked when speaking this was a welcomed statement. Then, he sudabout returning to 1967 borders, which denly veered away from the beaten path and many rightfully claim are indefensible declared the need for Israeli reform. In this (including PM Binyamin Netanyahu himnew peace plan, Israel was to return ‘Palesself). And you know what they say, “Histinian’ land according to the pre-1967 bortory repeats itself.” ders with mutually agreed land swaps. This Obama also fails to realize that core included a total withdrawal of troops from issues would have probably changed the all land given back. playing ﬁeld, such as the issues regarding Immediately, turmoil broke loose the relocation of thousands of Ethiopian between the Israelis and Americans. Never and other refugees who are currently in before had a president said something so exIsrael and who inherits Jerusalem. Both plicit about Israeli-Palestinian peace. Some of these subjects are at the top of any percheered and some wept, but all looked to the son’s thoughts, but Obama has simply Israeli Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanplaced them away as a small side matter yahu, to see his reaction. He met with the to be decided on later. president the day after, and straight away, Lastly, Obama has not provided a Netanyahu laid down the fact that Israel method to achieve his plan but instead would never agree to those negotiations. just proposed an idea ﬂung out into the Looking back at Obama’s speech, one open. If you were at the dinner table talkmight, at least on the surface, think him naing over politics, you might ﬂing out that ïve. He proposes that you give back land to an enemy who publicly advocates your death Drawing by Moshe Sigala, a sophomore of Yeshivat Ner Aryeh idea. But this is no dinner shmuz, this is the president of the United States of and extermination. You might as well sugOrganization, Yesser Arafat, entered a simiAmerica (along with a huge amount of politigest that you give a murderer a knife and say, lar agreement known as the Oslo Accords. The cal advisors) and he doesn’t show any method “stab me.” Aiding this idea is that just before basic premise was strikingly familiar: Israel of safely and smoothly fulﬁlling his plan. the speech, the Palestinian Authority decided was to give land over to the Palestinians, inTo conclude, the proposed borders of to become allies with Hamas, a terrorist orgacluding the Gaza Strip and Jericho, and in re- Israel are unusual to say the least. You would turn the PLO would renounce terrorism and have thought that the people behind the promote peace with Israelis within its borders. president would have thought of these things Additionally, Palestine was to be granted self- and known it was a lost cause already. Peace rule and both nations would recognize each will never be an option between a group who other’s existence. The date was September promises to kill you and is even willing to kill 13, 1993. It was seen by many as the perfect themselves to accomplish that goal. The pro“Kodak moment” in history—Yitzhak Rabin posal did not achieve any peace between Isand Yesser Arafat shaking hands in front of rael and Palestine but instead increased the a cheering crowd, set by the backdrop of the gap between Israel and the U.S. leader of the Western world, Bill Clinton. It nization. How can you decide to trust a group with your life when that same organization is in cahoots with your greatest enemy? The next problem with his plan is that Israel has tried doing just that once before, and it hasn’t worked. During the Clinton presidency, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the chair of the Palestinian Liberation
A (Tentative) Preview of Next Year’s Secular Courses
An Interview with Mr. Soltis
(Continued from page 1)
MS: I don’t know this to be sure, but my feeling while teaching here was that I encountered a higher percentage of students who had spiritual interest, than I did when working with students elsewhere. Although some high school kids have it, and not everyone here has it, I deﬁnitely feel like its presence is more common here. CB: Do you mind giving an example of what you mean? MS: Sure. I could talk about things like transcendentalism, which is about the transitory nature of things, and a lot of students can understand and relate to it. They can really grasp how if you try to get your happiness out of life from things, you’re doomed because things will never really make you happy. I think that this comes from the fact that many students here at Valley Torah aspire to live lives inﬂuenced by things like gratitude, morality, and the idea that there is a higher purpose to life. CB: Does that help them in class academically? MS: In that sense, it’s irrelevant. You could have that feeling and still be a horrible student or vice versa. What I did notice was that my best students tended to be the ones that excelled in Gemara studies, in particular. They tended to do the best in English. CB: Because it’s all about making connections mentally. MS: Exactly. They were very good at close reading, ﬁnding the deeper meaning of things, and in ﬁnding patterns that keep repeating in the language. That’s why the Ner Aryeh guys were typically my favorite students. CB: On the other side of the spectrum, how do feel like teaching at a religious Jewish school was an academic obstacle? MS: Here’s the hardest part about teaching here for me: *pauses* because of the secluded nature of Judaism, because there is an aspect of separating oneself from society
(to some extent) to pursue a greater spiritual connection, I often feel like students allow themselves to have a “closed eye” towards the rest of the world. And this effects mostly reading. You see, good readers have empathetic imaginations; good readers are able to feel what its like to be somebody else. And do you know where this shows the most? The general lack of love for history among the students. The fact that people can’t understand history reﬂects their inability to be empathetic to someone else other than themselves. L i k e someone w h o lived a
long time ago, for example, and who spoke a different language—or someone who believed in different things. I believe that, ultimately, all human beings are connected and the inability to understand another human being is the inability to understand the self. The bottom line is students don’t do as well in literature. The AP Literature course here is far harder
Circumcision Under Attack
for students than the AP Language is. Because good reading is what it takes, and empathy is what it takes to be a good reader. And there are people here at Valley Torah who can do that wonderfully. I’m exaggerating to make a point. There are obviously students who are good readers here. CB: Also, you’re planning to teach at New Jew next year; is there a reason why you chose to continue teaching at a Jewish school? MS: No, that was irrelevant to me. What was really important was that I got to teach as fast and as well as I could possibly do. That was really what I was looking for—that fertile ground where I could be transplanted and be brought into fruition as a teacher. I felt like New Jew would provide the secular environment for me to do so. In contrast, here the school hours are longer and are more balanced with the Judaic studies, so the opportunity to spend time writing and doing homework is lessened. That’s not necessarily a horrible thing, but it’s not aligned with my goals as a teacher. CB: Well thank you for your time. On behalf of all your students here at Valley Torah, we will all truly miss having you as a teacher. MS: Thank you. I’ll miss having you guys as my students, but the years we spent together were wonderful.
Sound Bytes By Moshe Shapiro
Sun Powered: Israel recently unveiled its first major commercial solar power plant. Costing nearly thirty million dollars, the plant is due to be hooked up to the national grid within a few weeks. The government states that it aims to provide 10% of its nations’ power with solar and other renewable energy sources. Take Your Breath Away: Israeli scientists have invented a breathalyzer that can detect cancers of the head, neck, and lungs with 86% accuracy. The procedure is cost-effect and noninvasive and is even capable of detecting tumors that are not yet large enough to show up on X-rays or CT scans. Jews Against Circumcision? Some Jews in Israel are trying to outlaw circumcision in Israel. Sure, we Jews have our machlokesim regarding the mitzvot, but this seems to have gone too far. A movement such as this, though still minute, has been unheard of until this point in history for Jews in Israel. Jewish Priest: A Jew who was converted to Catholicism is now being appointed as Chief appellate of the Catholic Church. Jewish communities are responding in outrage. Botanist in Your Pocket: A group of Israeli students have developed a new mobile application called “Bar Code Flower” that can identify nearly any species of plant just by using your phone’s camera. It is not yet available in North American markets.
would, if passed, make circumcision of males under eighteen a crime punishable with a nied these essentials elsewhere. By Katriel Sigala $1,000 dollar ﬁne as well as up to a year in However, in recent weeks this freedom jail. Furthermore, a similar bill is on schedhe United States of America: a bastion that we Jews enjoy so much has been serious- ule for Santa Monica to vote on in November of freedom and opportunity. These two ly threatened. I am referring to the fact that 2012. qualities make the States particularly entic- a prominent Californian city, San Francisco, When I ﬁrst heard about this I was ing to Jews, the people that has long been de- has recently proposed a ballot initiative that pretty shocked. I thought “How could this
The Newspaper Crew Yosef Yasmeh, Editor-in-Chief Katriel Sigala, Assistant Editor Eytan Darrison, Entertainment Manager Akiva Leyton, Journalist Ben Kiaei, Journalist Chushim Botach, Journalist Eliyahu Moji, Journalist Eliyahu Yifrach, Journalist Lior Galili, Journalist Jack Turell, Journalist Jeremy Makabi, Journalist Michael Farnoosh, Journalist Nathaniel Liberman, Sports Reporter Aviel DeCastro, Humorist Yitzchak Shapiro, Humorist Aharon Reich, Poll Manager Aaron Stibleman, Cartoonist Student Council Benji Israel, President Michael Judah, Vice President Yosef Yasmeh, Treasurer Brian Saeidian, Recording Secretary Yosef Sasson, Corresponding Secretary Nathaniel Liberman, Photographer Jeremy Makabi, 12th Grade Rep. Eytan Darrison, 11th Grade Rep. Michael Kawas, 10th Grade Rep. 12517 Chandler Boulevard Valley Village, CA 91607 Phone: (818)-505-7999 See VT Times and other Valley Torah happenings at VTHSblog.com Questions, Comments, Ideas, Articles? Email: YosefYasmeh@Gmail.com
A t T he S urface
(Continued from page 1)
...Valley Torah is expecting this super class to be able-minded and ready to take on any curriculum. Also, a one class track eliminates disparity between students, which creates unison and greater progress as a whole. This will also allow Valley Torah to offer better and stronger courses while tackling various APs early on. Academically speaking, a class of eighteen is without a doubt more lucrative for the students and faculty at Valley Torah. Another major beneﬁt of a one tract system is the creation of a balanced budget for VT. The declining year-to-year attendances have resulted in a decreasing annual income and have produced an unbalanced budget. With a two tract system, twice the teachers are required to be paid, while the number of students does not usually equally increase. Since the ratio of students to teachers increases impartially with a two tract system, the school’s proﬁt is reduced. In the words of Rabbi Striks, “It is necessary; the number of kids is not enough to justify the creation of two tracks. It is only ﬁnancially and academically logical.” Prior to questioning or researching, students and oth-
happen here, where freedom of religion is guaranteed in the very ﬁrst Amendment of the Constitution?” Well, they deﬁnitely aren’t saying that it should be banned to spite Jews, and refuse them the observance of this integral part of our religion. Rather, they raise issues of health. Matthew Hess, one of the leaders of the effort, views it as a crusade to protect young boys from a “barbaric mutilation of their bodies.” On the surface, this movement seems threatening but isn’t necessarily intentionally so. These people are trying to save babies from what they view as dangerous. Never mind that it severely impedes an ancient religious tradition. Never mind that the National Institutes of Health and other institutions of medical care have recommended that circumcision can have a preventative effect on the spread of AIDS and other diseases. No, these
ers may not comprehend the rationale behind Valley Torah’s decision, but the truth is that much thought went into ﬁnalizing the decision. It should not be noted that this conclusion has not come to play to exclude any student from the VT family and
cause it is necessary, but it’s still not the best thing to do.” It is additionally important to note that VT still regards and cares for the community and is not running a popularity contest to select only an exclusive set of students just to develop its name.
‘Wolfpack’; such a decision would never pass according to Valley Torah standards. Michael Judah, a sophomore at Valley Torah, regarded the matter as a necessary means of modiﬁcation even though it may not be the most ideal thing to do. He stated, “It [accepting only eighteen students] is not being done to create a sense of exclusivity. It is being done be-
Valley Torah is a stellar high school; its recent decisions have created a cloud of rumors which continue to swirl about. It is important for these rumors to be put to rest and for the deeper meaning of this matter to trickle up through the fractured surface and enlighten those in question.
are just people concerned about children. They have no Anti-Semitic undertones . . . or do they? Perhaps Matthew Hess’s intentions and reasons aren’t so pure. After all, the Anti-Defamation League has attacked a comic called “Foreskin Man” which was created by… one Matthew Hess. The ADL has accused this comic of containing “grotesque Anti-Semitic imagery and themes.” Well, we say to ourselves “It can’t be all that bad can it?” After all, this is a man that at least 7,100 people have agreed with enough to sign the petition for the law. But trust, this is an example of AntiSemitism that ranks up with Nazi Propaganda. In it the hero—a muscular superhero of white skin, blond hair, and blue eyes—combats the nefarious Monster Mohel, a menacing and uncaring rabbi, in an attempt to save
a innocent baby from the villain and his two machine-gun-toting Jewish thugs’ attempting to circumcise it. The worst part? This is actual campaign material, not just a fringe group of people. This is put out by one of the main proponents of the measure. So what is being done about the attack on our right to practice our religion? Well, for one, a counter group to those espousing the law has been formed, comprised of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious organizations in the Bay Area. While they have not said what their exact plan is, it is heartening to see such a group form in defense of this practice. Zahra Billoo, Bay Area director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, says “It’s the assault on religious freedoms that brings the two together.”
Why I Teach By Mr. Rory McEntee
After not knowing what to do with my life, trying a number of different jobs and ﬁnding myself unsuccessful and unable to make money, I ﬁnally decided to become a teacher. Being a teacher is a wonderful job to fallback on. It allows me to have time off, work on my own terms, express power and control in my classroom, and work without oversight. I found that when one has a hard time being successful in our society, teaching provides a great opportunity to one and all, no matter what one’s skill set may be. If you are still reading I hope at this point you have a smile on your face. I fear that too often the above is the way many people, including students, may think about teaching. When I arrived at Valley Torah two and a half years ago, many students questioned as to why I would ever want to teach here. They wondered what I was doing being a teacher, how I ended up at this “low end” of the societal spectrum, and what secrets must be lurking in my personal life to have rendered such a pitiful state. The overall sentiment was, in short, that working as a teacher, especially here at a small school like Valley Torah, was nothing less than a failure. Surely, if one could get a job elsewhere, if one could make more money doing something else, one would be doing it. Being here meant one had nowhere else to go. Fortunately, I believe this cynical attitude has begun to change. Without the usual platitudes (“If I could just change one student’s life...”), I will share part of my personal story in becoming a teacher, in the hopes of continuing to change attitudes not only towards teachers, but more importantly also towards
what constitutes “success” in this life. The notion that teachers are those who could not ﬁnd success elsewhere is clearly a misnomer. Here at Valley Torah, we have teachers who have enjoyed tremendous success as writers, are superb counselors, and talented architects. In my own case, after graduating from a private, four-year college, I found myself in a wonderful job with the largest American company in the world at the time. I had also gained entrance to a top-ten law school. A road to corporate success and ﬁnancial security seemed to have been laid before me. I found myself living the “American dream”...a child whose parents had been on food stamps growing into a life of ﬁnancial success. There was only one problem—I failed to see clearly how my efforts in these arenas would help to make the world a better place. There were, of course, rational arguments (“Making money helps everyone out…,” “I’m helping to provide jobs to others…,” “I can give to charity in this way…,” etc.) but if I were to be honest with myself, none of these were felt in the depths of my being. Reﬂecting on the fact I had only this one life to live, I left both opportunities on the table, and instead embarked on a long and winding road, turning inward, seeking spiritual and religious guidance, and struggling to ﬁnd how I might best be of help in the world. This has led me, quite unexpectedly, into high school education. I now feel blessed to have ﬁnally found a home, one where I hope to be able to contribute, in some small way, to making the world a better place.
I believe the story is the same for many of us who have chosen education as a career. We have found teaching to be a way to use our life energies for the betterment of the whole. As aspiring young men who are beginning to contemplate your future paths, my wish for you is that you should also struggle to ﬁnd a way to contribute, in some small way, to the betterment of our world. You are blessed to be able to study some of humanities eternal truths in the Torah, which will surely serve as an integral foundation and moral compass for you to contribute positively to our planet. Be warned, however, that you should not expect our current culture, geared as it is to ﬁnancial success, competition, and consumption, to be particularly helpful in this endeavor. You should not expect to be looked up to by those who have bought into the traditional notions of “success” in our society. If ﬁnancial rewards should come, wonderful, but they should not be expected, and may even be required to be let go of. In the end, they mean little, while the example of your precious life and its contribution to others will mean much.
Sharing or Stealing?
reasoning applies to music and other copyrighted products that one can download from the web. Just because the media is digital and lacks a sense of tangibility doesn’t mean it’s free for anyone to take. The bottom line is that to download it for free is to steal someone’s intellectual property, which they sell at a price, without payment to the creator. Nevertheless, this argument fails to persuade some people of the wrongs of ﬁle sharing and other forms of downloading ﬁles. The ﬁrst counter is that using ﬁle-sharing software cannot be labeled as stealing—after all, it’s just “sharing” one’s music. But under some light, this position crumbles apart to reveal the fallacy that makes up its core. This could be explained with a parable. Let’s say a person goes to a store and purchases a book. When ﬁnished reading it, this person decides to photograph the whole book and spread it among his or her friends. To make matters worse, let’s say that this person uploaded the pictures to the Internet so that everyone can read the book for free. Clearly, this would be illegal. The book is copyrighted, and with every time that someone reads the free copy, the publisher and author both lost a margin of their proﬁts. Furthermore, to download music is to read a free copy of the author’s book. YouTube downloaders are a different story, though. Many innocently believe that because the music is already being made available for free by the musician on YouTube, downloading the music presents no problems. Close, but no cigar. Musicians actually earn proﬁt for post-
ing their works onto the site. Some ofﬁcial videos, like those of Vevo for example, are preceded by an advertisement or come with small banners at the bottom of the videos. A sponsor pays for each time the video is viewed. Now if one were to download that song with a YouTube downloader, the musician would be deprived of that proﬁt. In addition, some songs are posted on YouTube to gain publicity. The higher their view counts, the more people will be attracted to listen to the artist’s song. This might be the difference between success and failure in some careers—such as Justin Bieber’s. Thus, music uploaded on YouTube isn’t really “free” in a traditional sense. Nonetheless, digital piracy isn’t just wrong from the point of view of the law, but it also raises serious moral ramiﬁcations, as well. Take under consideration, for example, how much effort must have been put in by the product’s creator to get it from an idea to an actual movie, song, program, or etc. Cobe Schwartz, a member of the band Purdue Avenue and a senior here at Valley Torah, emphasized how much practice and time must be put into just a single song to get it to sound right. “It’s terrible; especially for the musicians whose entire lives revolve around the success of their works. Most people don’t think about how much time and effort goes into each song. When you think about it, it’s just straight up stealing,” he said. Again, it’s not just musicians who are affected by this issue. As another example, take an English teacher right here at Valley Torah, Mr. Gorden. (Conintued on page 7)
By Moral Moshe
A decade ago, the term “piracy” would invoke images of men with wooden legs and eye-patches sailing the seas and plundering villages. Nowadays, the term invokes quite a different picture. It involves teens and adults alike sitting behind their desktops, downloading music, games, and movies from ﬁle-sharing websites and torrents. Downloading copyrighted materials without payment is an act so common, that we’re all bound to have committed it in some form or another. However, the greatest issue with this is that most of us do not believe that our actions are illegal or unethical—the truth is to the contrary. Thus, the question begs to be asked: why is there such widespread comfortablity in illegally downloading our music or other digital goods? It is certain that none of us would be willing walk into a local store and shoplift a CD album. How is using a YouTube downloader to rip your favorite song off the Internet any different? The answer mainly has to do with our perception of purchasing things. When you buy an album or book from a store, you are not interested in the actual CD that the songs are recorded on, or the pages of the book that the words are written on, per se. Rather, you are buying the intellectual property that comes in the form of a song, words to a story, or etc. The CD and book are just the forms of media that store the information that you want. The same
(Continued from page 1)
Wolfpack’s success was just that. They brought moral and “I put pressure on the kids to win. At the bereligious character down to ginning of the season, I told them we were gothe courts and showed to the ing to go after this,” Icart said. It lit a spark. world that you can come out on The Wolfpack came back into the game and top. They proved that it’s poswas able to fully shutdown Bishop Diego for sible to go to a Jewish school more than ten minutes in the ﬁnal quarter— and be dedicated to a ﬁrm Toand win the title. rah education, while not forfeiting success In essence, the Wolfpack’s accomplishin athletics or in society as a whole. As star ments this year represent a hallmark of Jewplayer Aaron Liberman put it, “There is G-d ish principle. That is, one of man’s missions in in everything—even basketball.” this world is to instill holiness and spiritualiAnd on April fourth, when the team ty into the mundane and the physical (such as went to City Council and was presented with eating or speaking) as a form of tikkun olam. a proclamation recognizing their achieveAnd the Kiddush Hashem generated by the
Sharing or Stealing? (Continued from page 6)
He was the scriptwriter for a children’s movie most of us had probably seen in our childhoods: The Extremely Goofy Movie. He put in more than three month’s worth of work just to write the script for the movie. Throw in nine more months for the animation and voice-overs, and you’ve got one year’s wait to produce a single movie. Yet, most of us don’t think twice when we download the works of the Cobes and Mr. Gordens of the world online for free. You wouldn’t steal from them, would you? Looking at the issue from a religious standpoint doesn’t make improve its situation. Rather, it just highlights a sense of hypocrisy involved in
the action. To illuminate, as school children many of us where taught that the generation of the ﬂood’s greatest sin was theft. Among the sea of other atrocities they committed, theft—particularly petty theft—was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Indeed, most of us are familiar the story of the man living in that time who lost his entire inventory of grapes because each person who would pass by his shop would take a single grape. In my opinion, this very story can be strikingly applied to online piracy. To live by a religion where we shun the theft of something as small and worthless as one grape, how much more so should we distance ourselves and condemn the act of downloading people’s works for free
off the internet. After all, we are stealing the artists or producer’s grapes—one download at a time. This issue is one that we should take action in actively guarding ourselves from. There are multiple alternatives to downloading music for free—and some of them aren’t even that hard on the wallet. Napster, just one of such alternatives, offers unlimited music downloads for only ﬁve dollars a month. In summation, as Mr. Gorden (also known as the school’s Moral Guru) put it: “Online piracy is the ultimate ethical question—it’s just a mouse click away and is vaporized into the anonymity of cyberspace.” Which side will you join?
The (Ultimate) Rabbi Felt Sudoku
ment, it was this that they had in mind. Thank you, Wolfpack, not only for making history for Valley Torah High School, but for the Jewish community in California, as well. Last Issue’s Riddle: A king decided to give a prisoner a chance to escape the prison with his life. The king placed two marbles into a jar that was glued to a table. One of the marbles was supposed to be black and one was supposed to be blue. If the prisoner could pick the blue marble, he would escape the prison with his life. If he picked the black marble, he would be executed. However, the king was evil and wickedly placed two black marbles into the jars and no blue marbles. The prisoner witnessed the king only putting two black marbles into the jar. If the jar was not see-through, the jar was glued to the table, and the prisoner was mute and therefore unable to protest, how could he escape with his life? Answer: He should take out any one marble, and get rid of it in some way, such as by swallowing it. He then shows that the remaining marble was black, which meant he picked the blue one ﬁrst.
This Issue’s Riddle: A man wanted to enter an exclusive club but did not know the password that was required to enter. He waited by near the club’s entrance and listened. A club member knocked on the door and the doorman said, “twelve.” The member replied, “six” and was let in. A second member came to the door and the doorman said, “six.” The member replied, “three” and was let in. The man thought he had ﬁgured out the trick and walked up to the door. The doorman said, “eight” and the man replied, “four,” but he was not let in. What was the correct password? For the answer to this riddle, check the VTHS blog at www.vthsblog.com
Parashat Beha’alotecha Choosing the Right Path By David Shamtoob
Loaded Gun By Mr. Scott Gorden
Glass shattered, and then a piercing pain exploded throughout his back. He had been hit by a sniper’s bullet. He wasn’t in a war. He wasn’t in a neighborhood prone to violence. He was working in a group home for the physically handicapped in a small Rhode Island town. “Things like this are not supposed to happen around here,” he told himself as the ambulance whisked him away. Alan Gorden, ﬁfty-three, can only shake his head in disbelief. He’s lived with a bullet lodged next to his spine now for ﬁfteen years. The doctors couldn’t remove the foreign object; it was too close to the sensitive nerves. But the bullet in his back is not what disturbs him so. It’s the incident. It replays in his head everyday and he can’t shake free of it. Every time a door slams. Every time a car backﬁres. Every time a drinking glass falls to the ground and shatters, he is reminded. Today, ﬁfteen years later, he will ﬁnally meet, face to face, the man who shot him. Today, at their parole hearing he will ﬁnally have the chance to say what has been smoldering inside since that haunting evening. And he has no idea what will come out. Should these men rot in jail for causing a life of pain and suffering? Or should they be forgiven because the shooting was just a stupid, tragic mistake? The bullet wasn’t met for Alan. It was an accident. Two drunken teenagers challenging each other to a game of target practice. Do you live your life believing, “An eye for an eye?” Or is it better to believe that, “To err is human; to forgive is divine”? Today at 10 A.M., in Rhode Island’s State Penitentiary a decision will be made that will affect two lives for years to come, if not forever. Today, the “loaded gun” is in Alan’s hands.
By Tal Shemen After every assassination, he would leave a typed note with his name on it and the date of the next assassination. His name was Vladimir. He was the most skillful assassin there was. His records showed that he had killed twenty people, and the police had no lead at all. The note said that the twenty was about to become twenty-one on June 29th, a month from today. Detective James was the head investigator on the Vladimir case. He assigned three teams to research the backgrounds of the men that were killed and ﬁnd all the common denominators between them. After three days, all the information was on his desk, and he began sift through and analyze every small detail. All the victims were ordinary middle-class people. They were all educated, married, and had a clean record. Apparently, they were all murdered during the last month of their wives’ pregnancies. Although this was signiﬁcant, Detective James knew it was useless if he didn’t look deeper. He assigned extra teams to study each victim carefully. If there was any connection what so ever between each of the men, he wanted to know about it. It was now June 27th, and James ﬁnally found the ultimate connection. All of the men had invested in the same building, and one man was swindled by the others. That man was Mirid Alv. James realized that these were the same letters as Vladimir. He also saw that Alv’s wife was in her last month of pregnancy before he was cut out of the deal. It all
Parashat Beha’alotecha talks about the complaints that Bnai Yisrael had been making towards the Manna. They wanted real meat, like the way they had it in Egypt, not just Manna. The Torah calls this complaining “התאוו תאוה,” which means, “They desired a desire.” But what it the Torah trying to teach us with the double nature of this expression? The Rambam teaches us that this is referring to the two types of challenges that a person faces in his or her life. The ﬁrst type of test is the one that Hashem sends to grant an opportunity for spiritual growth. Life is about overcoming these challenges and using them as tools for bettering ourselves. When Hashem sends us these tests, He knows that we have the ability to succeed—even though sometimes it may be difﬁcult. However, the second type of challenge that we confront is the one we create for ourselves. The Yetzer Ha’ra (the evil inclination) tries to convince a person to enter a spiritually dangerous situation, convincing one that he has the strength to succeed. These tests are destructive, and the ability to overcome them is not guaranteed. Often times, one is fooled to follow in order to test his own devotion, but one must avoid such situation and follow the dictum of our sages: “Be clever with your Yetzer Ha’ra.” Similarly, in life we are confronted with two types of desires. The ﬁrst is a result of human’s natural cravings, such as the instinctive need satisfy hunger. On the other hand, sometimes there are cravings we bring upon ourselves. A tale is told of the Romans, for example, who found that they were too full to eat all the desserts served at a meal because of the number of courses served. They then proceeded empty their stomachs through induced vomiting, which caused them to feel hungry again and eat what was left. We see that the Romans were not hungry, but they wanted to feel like they were hungry. They ate for the hedonistic pleasure food gave them. This is what the Torah refers to when it describes that Bnai Yisrael “desired a desire.” They were not hungry, but they wanted to be hungry. The Manna was sufﬁcient to ﬁll up the stomachs of Bnai Yisrael. The question still begs to be asked: What motivates a person who feels to bring a feeling of desire upon himself? The Rambam gives a one-word answer—boredom. After a year of learning Torah and Hashem’s commandments, the Jews got bored. So they went on to try to ﬁnd something exciting. They had a desire to desire something. They chose to desire meat and rant about it for excitement. Statistics consistently show that most crimes happen during the summer months. People have more free time on their hands; consequently, they begin looking for trouble. They cultivate a craving for “excitement” in the form of mischief. For a Jew, having a relaxed and easy summer is pretty difﬁcult because he has lots of tests to pass. A Jew should ﬁll up his summer for time to learn Torah every single day. Nonetheless, saying that one should spend some time studying Torah necessarily doesn’t mean one should leave out the fun and enjoyment of summer. Of course, summer is a time where us students should relax and unwind after a hard year’s work. But that doesn’t mean that your should waste your free time over the break. Learn Torah and spend your time wisely. When people get bored, they begin to lead themselves off the road and eventually they will lose the essence of who they are. Don’t create your own tests—life will give you just enough as it is. made sense. Vladimir needed money for his wife and unborn child, and when the other men gave him the short end of the stick, he lost everything. He wanted revenge, and he did this by killing them right before their baby was to be born so that they, too, would not be able to provide for their soon-to-be family. Twenty of the twentythree men were dead, and one of the last three was Vladimir. This left two suspects for assassination. However, only one had a wife, and just as predicted, she was pregnant. It was June 29th now, and everyone was in place. If anyone wanted to kill either of these men, they would be caught before they could take another breath. The day went by unexpectedly quietly. At 12:00 A.M., June 12th, Detective James was happily on his way home. When he arrived, he walked into his
Timeless Days By Katriel Sigala
Days compress as they approach Closure, As if they crave release. Time speeds evermore, Before a dreaded ending. Nostalgic days, quickly past, Flashes of good memories. Wave farewell To hallowed halls For they march off to Posterity.
son’s room, saw him sound asleep, kissed him, and left the room. He went into his room only to ﬁnd an envelope on his wife’s side of the bed. Inside were a note saying “Leave me alone or he is next” and a picture of his wife—dead.