Sunday, July 31, 2005


          Looking at the World          

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Adventures in Jewish Bigotry

The Godol Hador has been discussing this issue lately, so I guess I'll jump on the bandwagon and discuss it too.

So. I have a friend. Let's call him "Magz". Magz has very little formal Jewish education. Magz is also a horrible bigot. He also has the amazing ability to take any piece of information and twist it to fit his, well, twisted worldview. Because of this ability, actually, during college we had a communal enactment that it was forbidden to teach him anything new except for the purpose of disproving one of his immoral fantasies.

His favorite seifer was The Midrash Says. Or maybe it was even The Little Midrash Says. Anyway, he was definitely one of those people who R' Moshe ben Maimon described as idiots for taking aggadic stories at face value instead of trying to get at their deeper meaning.

One of the aggadic stories he claimed supported his racist delusions was the following Alexander narrative from the Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin 91a:
When the people of Afriqiya came before Alekhsanderos Moqedon to bring a case against Yisra’eil, they said: "The Land of Kena‘an is ours, as is written, 'the Land of Kena‘an according to its borders'." And Kena‘an was their ancestor.

Geviha ben Pesisa said to the Sages: "Give me permission and I will argue with them before Alekhsanderos Moqedon. If they beat me, you can say 'you have only out-argued a layman' — and if I beat them, you can say 'the Tora of Moshe has beaten you'." They gave him permission, and he went to court against them.

He said to them: "From where are you bringing proof?"

They said to him: "From the Tora!"

He said to them: "Then I will also only bring proof from the Tora — it says, 'and [Noahh] said, "Cursed is Kena‘an! He will be a slave of slaves to his kinsmen!",' and when a slave buys property, who do the slave and the property belong to? And after all, for so many years you haven't been serving us!"
[In other words, y'all're our slaves, and everything you own belongs to us — oh, and you owe us back-labor for the past few thousand years or so!]

King Alekhsanderos told them: "Give him an answer."

They said to him: "Give us time!"

He gave them three days, and they checked but couldn't find a response. Immediately, they ran away and abandoned their just-planted fields and vineyards; and that year was a
shemita year.

Magz's conclusion from this agada — "Look! It says that Blacks should be our slaves! They were cursed by Noah! Quit it with all your liberal leftist hippy 'civil rights' nonsense, bring back the plantations!"

Sigh. Stupid people make my pancreas ache.

How do we know that Magz is an ass who didn't know squat?

Exhibit A:
Who gets cursed in the story of Noahh?
Was it Kush (Ethiopia)? No.
Was it Mitzrayim (Egypt)? No.
It was Kena‘an. Canaan. Where did they live? Oh yeah, Canaan. Israel. Palestine. Lebanon. Not Nigeria. Not Mozambique.

Exhibit B:
Check out this map of Africa in the Roman Empire. The Ancients didn't have the same concept of "continents" as we have today. Europe was only a part of what we call Europe today. Same with Asia. And Africa [known to us Judeans as Afriqi(ya) or Ifriqi(ya)] was only a small segment of the North African coast. No sub-Saharan dark-skinned Yoruba, Khoi-San, Zulus, or whoever else involved.

Africa was Carthage.

Carthage, or Qart Hhadasht — Qirya Hhadasha (New City) in Hebrew — was a Phoenician colony that itself became an empire in North-Africa, centered on what is today Tunisia. As you can see from their name, they spoke a language ("Punic") closely related to Hebrew, both being from the Canaanite branch of North-West Semitic. After all, the Phoenicians were Canaanites themselves, and both them in their homeland, and the Carthaginians in Ifriqi, called themselves "Canaan" and worshipped all those Canaanite baby-eating deities we love so much.
In short, the People of Ifriqiya = Carthage. Not Black Africans.

There is no excuse for being a Jew and being racist against Africans and people of African descent. If you're going to hate an ethnic or 'racial' (since 'race' is bogus anyway) group, at least pick one that makes sense. One that you have a legitimate grievance against. White people, for instance. The Holocaust, the Inquisition, Expulsions, Crusades... all perpetrated by White people. What the hell did Subsaharan Africa ever do to you?!

Why did God create the human race from only one original individual? ...In order to promote peace among humanity, so that no one could tell anyone else, "My Daddy's bigger than your Daddy!"...
— Mishna, Sanhedrin 4:5

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Judge Who Favorably?

Pirqey Avot. Ancestors' Chapters. chapter 1.
(i'm not giving a mishna number because they vary in different editions)

Yehoshua‘ ben Perahhya says:
"Make a sensei for yourself
 And acquire a comrade for yourself
 And judge
kol ha’adam favorably."

In the spirit of inobvious readings, we are going to ignore the fact that the most probable proper understanding of the phrase kol ha’adam here is "every human being" and take a little drashic conceptual leap.

אדם doesn't just mean "human being" or "person" — it's the name of our species. Homo sapiens sapiens. Interestingly enough, just as adam "human" is associated (whether justifiably or not) with adama "earth", the English word human stems ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European root dhghem-, also meaning "earth"!

So anyway, כל can mean "every" "each" or "all".
An initial, basic reading of the text would lead us to understand כל האדם as "every human being". Judge every person favorably. If someone cuts you off on the highway, don't assume "what an ass!" — instead, assume "maybe they need to get to the hospital quickly!"

Let's reread it now.
Judge kol ha’adam favorably.
כל האדם
The whole species. The entire human race.

Judge all of humanity favorably.

Don't be a misanthrope.
Don't be a self-hating human.
Don't go around saying "people are by nature evil".
Don't think that the world would get along better without us.

Sure, we've made some mistakes. But we're learning. We didn't eat that fruit in the Garden for nothing. Save the whales. Save the planet. Save ourselves. We can do it.

( reduce » reuse » recycle )

The Hunger Site and friends.

Some Negative Reinforcement:
(in case you didn't get the idea)
Ribbi Yeshoshua‘ says:
"Jealousy, Selfishness,
 And being a Self-Hating Human
 Can cause Early Death."

— Pirqey Avot chapter 2

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A Conflict-Avoidant Kind of Guy

In response to my my last post, my brother (who, if y'all remember, called my original "politburo" picture 'crappy') commented:

You can't even successfully court controversy by bringing up Biblical Criticism!!
what's with you???

Well, what is wrong with me?
I'm a conflict-avoidant kind of guy. I don't like it when I get stuck in throw-down all-out verbal grudge matches like I did that first time on Chakira with Steve Brizel. So while in RL (=real life) I may periodically get into arguments with people, hold my ground, and even win, I prefer to avoid direct confrontation if possible. Which could be why Psychotoddler found my blog somewhat disappointing. After all, I'm generally content. I'm not one of these people who hate their neighborhood or their community, and can't escape except under the guise of blogly anonymity.

Anyway, friends, Judeans, countrypeople, here's a list of possible future post topics. Some of them are controversial while others are probably more banal. Do y'all want blood or mud?
  1. "Judge kol ha’adam Favorably": Who?
  2. Why I am not a big fan of Kabbalah
  3. Paleodiet vs. Kashrut
  4. Why I can't stand Chabad
  5. Dilemmas of Dressing for Davening (inspired by Jack)
  6. How to read Hebrew with a Steggian accent
  7. Adventures in Jewish Bigotry

Monday, July 25, 2005

דן ידין עמו

Bereishit 14:14-15
(the Mesopotamian Alliance of Four Kings had just beaten down the Dead Sea Confederacy of Five Kings who rebelled against them, smote a number of other peoples on the way, and taken Lot captive)

וַיִּשְׁמַע אַבְרָם כִּי נִשְׁבָּה אָחִיו
וַיָּרֶק אֶת-חֲנִיכָיו יְלִידֵי בֵיתוֹ
שְׁמֹנָה עָשָׂר וּשְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת
וַיִּרְדֹּף, עַד-דָּן
וַיֵּחָלֵק עֲלֵיהֶם לַיְלָה
הוּא וַעֲבָדָיו, וַיַּכֵּם
וַיִּרְדְּפֵם עַד-חוֹבָה
אֲשֶׁר מִשְּׂמֹאל לְדַמָּשֶׂק

And Avram heard that his kinsman was taken captive,
and he led forth his trainees, born in his house —
three hundred and eighteen men —
and he made chase unto Dan.
And he divided his force against [Lot's captors] by night —
he and his servants — and smote them,
and pursued them unto Hhova,
which is north of Damascus.

Devotees of Biblical Criticism love this story, since it uses the place-name Dan, which didn't exist until hundreds of years after Avraham, as we know from the book of Shofetim, chapter 18. Some of the tribe of Dan weren't happy with their territory by the sea, and so they went looking for new land. They found a quiet and peaceful city named Layish up in the north of The Land, and conquered it, after which (Shofetim 18:29) —

וַיִּקְרְאוּ שֵׁם-הָעִיר דָּן
בְּשֵׁם דָּן אֲבִיהֶם, אֲשֶׁר יוּלַּד לְיִשְׂרָאֵל
וְאוּלָם לַיִשׁ שֵׁם-הָעִיר לָרִאשֹׁנָה

And they named the city "Dan",
after their ancestor Dan, who was born to Yisra’eil —
although the city was originally named Layish.

You can go to the ruins of Dan today, by the way. It's pretty cool.

Anyway, according to Bible critics ("Leviticus gets two thumbs down — where's the action?!"), this proves that this book, narrative, sentence, or at least word, had to have been written some time after the tribe of Dan conquered Layish, and definitely couldn't have been known in Moshe's time.

Now, many people have come up with explanations, interpretations, and apologetics to explain away this textual complication. The one I will now suggest, while not necessarily convincing, is at least a bit unique.

Let's look at the story about Avra(ha)m's war against the Four Kings again. There are three places listed:
1. Dan
2. Hhova
3. Dameseq (=Damascus)

One of these, Dameseq, is a well-known and important city, mentioned many other times in the Tanakh. Dan, assumedly, is post-conquest Layish. But what the heck is Hhova? The name appears nowhere else in the Tanakh &mdash but just happens to be the Hebrew word for "obligation", whose root is used often in post-Biblical literature in the sense of "punishment" or "liability" (hhayav in the sense of 'liable' for a certain punishment).

So, notwithstanding the identification of Hhova as "north of Damascus", could it be not actually a place, but a state of being? Or the location where that state of being was brought into existence? Could ...vayirdof ‘ad Dan ... vayirdefeim ‘ad Hhova... not mean that Avram "...made chase unto Dan ... and pursued them unto Hhova", but instead he "...made chase until he had Judged [them] ... and pursued them until [he exacted upon them] Punishment..."?

Works for me.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Two Quotes for the Fast of the Fourth Month

Crat noticed the old man's English had improved. Perhaps it was the passion of sudden memory. Or maybe he was letting down a mask.

"Oh, we and our allies were arrogant before the war. Mea culpa, we admit that now. And history shows the arrogant must always fall.

But then, to fall can be a gift, no? What is diaspora, after all, except an opportunity, a second chance for a people to learn, to grow out of shallow self-involvement and become righteous, deep, and strong?"

Schultheiss looked at Crat. "Pain is how a people are tempered, prepared for greatness. Don't you think so, fils? That wisdom comes through suffering?"

-- Earth, by David Brin

Our month Tammuz is named after the ancient Mesopotamian god Tammuz or Dumuzi, one of Ishtar's many husbands. The story goes that Tammuz died and went down to the Underworld. He was a fertility figure of some kind, and that's generally what happens to those — see Persephone in Greece. Anyway, Ishtar, who is one bad-ass mofo of a warrior goddess, decides to storm the Underworld and force the Queen of the Underworld, Ereshkigal, to give her back her husband. Ishtar arrives at the gate of the Underworld and says:
"Gatekeeper, ho, open thy gate!
Open thy gate that I may enter!
If thou openest not the gate to let me enter,
I will break the door, I will wrench the lock;
I will smash the door-posts, I will force the doors;
I will bring up the dead to eat the living
And the dead will outnumber the living."

The great gods of Mesopotamia — Ishtar, Dumuzi, Ereshkigal and all the rest — are forgotten. Nothing is left of them but fragmentary myths engraved on broken clay tablets. But we survive. We survived the worshippers of Ishtar; the followers of Antiochus and of Caligula; the heirs of Constantine and Richard; the Almohads and the Cossacks; the devotees of Hitler and Stalin. We will survive this. That is what it means to be a stiff-necked people — to carry on, to stick with it, to mourn our dead and celebrate our living, to keep our eyes on the ultimate goal, and to know that no matter what comes, gam zeh ya‘avor. This too shall pass.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


Birkot Hatora. The Blessings over Torah Study.

In most contemporary prayerbooks, they appear followed by two Torah texts — one from the Written Torah, and one from the Oral Torah. The Tora Shebikhetav text is Birkat Kohanim, the Priestly Blessing (Bemidbar 6:24-26): May God bless you and guard you. May God shine his face towards you and be gracious towards you. May God raise his face towards you and place upon you peace. The Tora Shebe‘al Peh text is the first mishna in Masekhet Pei’a, with an addition from the gemara of Masekhet Shabat 127a.

I was told once that some people associate the words of Birkat Kohanim mystically with the human hand, since the Priestly Blessing has a total of 15 words and the human hand has a total of 15 'pieces' — three joints on each of four fingers, two on the thumb, and one palm.
  1. יברכך
  2. ה׳
  3. וישמרך

  4. יאר
  5. ה׳
  6. פניו
  7. אליך
  8. ויחנך

  9. ישא
  10. ה׳
  11. פניו
  12. אליך
  13. וישם
  14. לך
  15. שלום

Interestingly enough, the Talmudic passage paired with Birkat Kohanim to be learned after reciting the Blessings over Torah Study mentions 15 commandments!
    These things have no set limit:
  1. Leaving the Corners of Fields for the Poor
  2. First Fruits Offering
  3. Pilgrimage
  4. Acts of Kindness
  5. Learning Torah
    These things one does and benefits from in This World, but the principal reward remains intact for the Next World:
  6. Honoring Parents
  7. Acts of Kindness
  8. Coming Early to Study Morning and Evening
  9. Hosting Guests
  10. Visiting the Sick
  11. Providing for a Bride
  12. Escorting the Dead
  13. Understanding Prayer
  14. Bringing Peace Between People
  15. Learning Torah (which is equivalent to all the rest)

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Fight the Military-Agricultural Complex?

The Vision of Yesha‘yahu ben Amotz:

And he will judge between the nations,
and decide for many peoples;
and they will beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruninghooks —
no nation will raise a sword against any other nation,
and they will no longer learn war.

(Isaiah 2:4)

The Word of God to Yo’eil ben Petu’eil:

Proclaim this among the nations —
Prepare war! Wake up the heroes!
Let all the warriors draw near and come up!
Beat your plowshares into swords,
and your pruninghooks into spears;
let the weak say, "I am strong!"

(Joel 4:9-10)

I have a replica medieval sickle that I bought off of Ebay when I realized that I probably wouldn't be able to get ahold of an actual (or replica) Ancient Middle-Eastern sickle-sword of the type our ancestors used. Except for Eihud ben Geira’. But he was left-handed, what do you expect? Anyway, I want to get the above two quotes engraved on the sickle, one on either side of the blade, in ketav ‘Ivri.

A sickle-sword (lifted from the Metropolitan Museum of Art):
Sickle sword, 1307–1275 B.C.; Middle Assyrian period, reign of Adad-nirari I
Bronze; L. 21 3/8 in. (54.3 cm)
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1911 (11.166.1)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005



(Me and Amshinover Ate Delicious Sushi. Yo.)

Today for lunch, I went out to the Five Towns and met up with Harav Haga’on Haleitzan (in a good way) Amshinover, šlit"a at his favorite restaurant. We talked about all kinds of bloggariffic topics, like Slifkin bans, (anti) Zionism, the state of Judaism in the world today, and Hummers. And we said lots of lashon hara‘ about all of you. So There.

We also discussed a topic that interests both of us, the history and development of the nusahh of prayers. And how to evaluate accuracy and/or meaningfulness in changes to the text.

But mostly, we ate sushi. Crazy sushi. And sashimi. Mmmm... mostly-raw fish... so much better than slimy gefilte fish in a slime-filled jar. It was actually the first time I ate sashimi straight, just the raw fish flesh itself dipped in soy sauce. It was a little weird. I'm more of a gestalt sushi eater, going for the whole combined rice-fish-etc. experience. Amshinover, on the other hand, is more of a hard core sushi/sashimi purist, who prefers it when other flavors don't get in the way of the fish itself.

Orthomom didn't join us. Maybe next time?

Forgotten Additional Point:
What the heck is up with those signs on the highway past JFK airport that point you towards the exits for
No Hangar Road, No Boundary Road, and No Conduit Road? I mean, after thinking about it a while I figured out that all the Nos are short for "North" — but wouldn't it be so much less confusing to abbreviate it N., instead?

Monday, July 11, 2005

SlifKings and Queens of the Stone Age II

or: Back and There Again

Yesterday I made the long trek back out to Queens by subway, subway and bus, to attend more of Rav Natan Slifkin's lectures — this time at Congregation Etz Chaim of Kew Gardens Hills (who don't seem to have a website). I arrived about half an hour late to the first lecture (I blame the MTA, but it was really my fault), and was pleasantly surprised when R' Slfkin 'randomly' inserted stegosaurus into a list of extinct animals as I walked in the door. That was pretty cool.

The first lecture, entitled "Untangling Evolution", dealt with disentangling the various separate concepts and issues involved in Evolution, and how different philosophical stances within the Jewish tradition react to them. Sure, people can say "I accept the scientific findings that point towards evolution" or "I am unconvinced by the scientific findings"; or even "As Jews, we strongly oppose the teaching of the myth of evolution" or "Evolution is a Satanic plot to destroy our faith!" But when they say any of those things, what do they actually mean?
Rabbi Slifkin pointed out that they could potentially be talking about only one particular facet of evolutionary research, or confusing multiple aspects, including:
  • the development of life from (mmm....) primordial soup
  • common descent (species evolving from each other)
  • the mechanisms of evolution (random mutation, survival of the fittest)
  • evolution of the human race from earlier primates
So for instance, someone might be fine with the idea that animals in general can evolve new species, but object to the idea that humans (with our qualitatively different souls) could have evolved from other animals.

There was one guy sitting off to the side who seemed to like arguing with R' Slifkin. After the lecture, he went up to debate some more and it came out that he's a mathematician, and mathematicians have a habit of looking at the world differently than other scientists do, and so that's why he was so hostile to the lecture. Suffice it to say that my mathematician friend, on the other hand, is actually a big fan of Rav Slifkin, and introduced me to his books in the first place (and he's probably going to kill me when he finds out that I completely forgot to tell him about R' Slifkin's lecture tour... d'oh! ...uh, put down that battle ax, okay?).

Then there was an hour-long break for lunch, and me and RNS went to one of the many kosher pizza places on Main Street named "Someone's". In the interests of bloggy discretion, however, I will not reveal what Rav Slifkin ate for lunch. Suffice it to say that this whole "blog world" and Real Life 'worlds colliding' thing is getting to my head. As we were waiting on the line to get our food, some guy in a white shirt, dark pants, and a dark blue baseball cap entered the pizza place. My first thought: Maybe that's Dark Blue Hat! DBH, do you have a British accent?

The next lecture was on the topic of conflicts between Hhazal's descriptions of natural phenomena and what we know from science today. Like in his book Mysterious Creatures, he discussed the various responses to the conflict — Hhazal were right and science is wrong; Hhazal were wrong and science is right; nishtaneh hateva‘ ("nature has changed"); Hhazal were speaking in allegories for aggadic purposes, etc. — and how different answers can be more or less appropriate for different problems. One very important point he made is that simply dismissing all of our Ancestors' and Sages' scientific pronouncements as primitive mistakes isn't just disrespectful, but can be downright wrong. There are a number of phenomena described by Hhazal (and other illustrious people of the past) that were dismissed in modern times as impossible which then became known more recently as accurate.

I had to leave after that, but the final lecture of the day was on animals with kosher signs. During the short break between lectures two and three, a young couple involved in Qiruv work told Rabbi Slifkin and the rest of us a few horror stories of qiruv workers using the fallacious 'proof' to the divinity of the Torah that "the animals listed as having only one kosher sign are the only such animals in existence". A number of these qiruv workers, it seems, were so sure of this assumption that they made claims like "if someone showed me another animal with only one kosher sign, I would eat next Yom Kipur"!

Anyway, I had to leave so I didn't get to attend the last lecture. But when I was walking back to the bus stop, I stopped into a random sefarim store, and guess what they had a pile of out in the center of the store? Rav Slifkin's Mysterious Creatures and R' Tzvi Hirš Chajes's The Students' Guide Through The Talmud! Way to go Yashar Books!

In conclusion, Rav Natan Slifkin is a brilliant, knowledgeable, and brave talmid hhakham, and the Jewish world would definitely be a lot richer in Torah if there were more people like him out there. Maybe, thanks to his books and the philosophic traditions that he preserves in them, there soon will be. Someone just needs to come up with a better system for publicizing his lectures!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

SlifKings and Queens of the Stone Age

or: Dos Iz (Nit) Der Štegosaurus

Tonight I had the honor and privilege to attend a lecture by none other than Rabbi Natan Slifkin, the Zoo Rabbi himself, at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills.

The evening began with a trek through the hazy, hot and humid New York City weather by two subways and a bus to get to the shul. Upon arriving at the shul about ten minutes early, and going down to the room where the lecture was, I was approached by Steve Brizel, of all people!

And I completely (OMG! WTF?) freaked out.

Well, not completely, but hey, this was after all Steve Brizel, who out of nowhere upped and beat me SWAT-team style (that counts as an acronym, right?) during one of my first tentative intrusions into the world of the Judeoblogosphere. No sweat, though. IMNSHO, I held my own and defended my positions more than adequately (and have done so repeatedly since then). I just wasn't expecting the vociferousness of the argumentation or the Kung Fu snake-bob-and-weave style of jumping from one topic to another. But that's okay now, he seems like a nice guy. Mad props to my Worthy Opponent for being the guy in charge at the lecture. Check out all the bloody and gory action here, in Chakira's archives.

And then I met the Rav himself (no not RYBS). RNS (must... break... Steve Brizel... abbreviation... imitation... habit...) came up to me (I guess Steve had pointed me out to him) and said that he read my blog! I've hit the big time! Although, if I remember correctly, he said that the white-on-black text hurt his eyes. Sorry about that. I also met a few other people there who said they recognized me, and it is definitely both gratifying and really freaking scary to know that all these people are reading my ramblings and not even leaving comments to say that they've been here. Anyway, I then went on to attempt some friendly chat with Rav Slifkin, and foolishly asked him how his travel and lectures have been going, when anyone with an ounce of interpersonal skillz sense would have asked about something more meaningful, like how him and his family are dealing with everything. Ohwell.
Social Awkwardness: 74,391 — Steg: 0 .

But then came the lecture itself, and it was really good. Rav Slifkin was intelligent, funny, and knowledgeable. My one kvetch was that some of the science seemed overly simplified, so for instance in describing the Age of Dinosaurs he neglected to mention our ancestral furry little mammal forebears who cohabited the Earth with them. Other than that side of things, I was very impressed. Having bought a number of his books but not actually had the chance to read through them all, I hadn't encountered his critique of Concordism (not to be confused with Discordianism), which he expressed eloquently in the lecture, even though — multiple times — attendees threw Concordist questions at him, as if they were unable to break out of the Concordist mold and think outside the box.
The principle of Concordism as a technique for reconciling Ma‘aseih Bereishit with the findings of contemporary Science consists of the premise that what is described in our Torah is some form of a historical record. Time may be squished (6 days = 15 billion years), and details may be hazy (hataninim hagedolim = dinosaurs), but a core chronological scientific account is hidden there, describing the process of Creation. The only problem with this wonderful, popular, and very innovative theory, though, is the simple fact that the sequence is out of order. So it doesn't hold water, much less premordial soup.

Rabbi Slifkin discussed a number of other reconciliation strategies, including R' Eliyahu Dessler's theory that the six days of creation aren't meant to be taken in a chronological manner at all, but instead represent mystical forces God used in order to create the universe. Unfortunately, we didn't get to hear much about the details of these various forces, and how the different days represent them. However, he did use a very interesting analogy, describing the "Test of Faith" theory that God created the world with fossils already in the ground as equivalent to claiming that Adam Harishon was created fully-grown but with false implanted memories of a childhood that never happened.

The Zoo Rabbi passed around a dinosaur tooth, and mentioned how once someone had broken it and he had to put it back together. So after the lecture, I went up and started telling him my own broken fossil story, not remembering that I had already posted it in public in the comments to The Wolf's post here.
Social Awkwardness: 74,392 — Steg: 0 .

And on the way home I saw a firefly. If I remember correctly, it was the first one I've seen since moving to Israel for school two years ago, and then moving back here just two days ago now. Crazy glowing insects. God did a great job with the natural bling.

Ma rabu ma‘aseykha Hashem,
kulam behhokhma ‘asita;
male’a ha’aretz qinyaneykha...

Barukh hu Avinu Malkeinu
Bore’einu Yotzereinu
H a t z a y a r   H a ‘ e l y o n
shekakha lo be‘olamo...

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Galus Makes Me Weird

"With Basil I flavoured the Jewish State."
   — Theodor Binyamin Ze’eiv "Iron Chef" Herzl

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Cool Kickin' Up In NYC

The previous flights i've taken back to the States from The Land were all more-or-less midnight flights, that left Ben Gurion airport at midnight or 1:00 AM, and arrived in New York at around 5 or 6 in the morning. Almost all of the flights i've taken in the other direction, from New York to Israel, left in the early afternoon and arrived at around 5 or 6 AM Israel time.

The first picture in my 62-roll series of Israel pictures is titled Sunrise at Ben-Gurion Airport, and is then subtitled:
Or ‘oleh min hamizrahh, yom hhadash higia‘;
shneinu nitgabeir ‘al ha’eima...

(light rises from the east, a new day has arrived;
the two of us will overcome fear...)
  — "Tutim" by Etnix

It's sorta poetic, ya know.
The brilliant start of a bright new day.
Arriving in a new place.
Embarking on a new stage of life.

This trip, though — my final trip home from Home at the end of my two-year stay — began at 4 AM. The sheirut 'service taxi' picked me and seven others up from around Jerusalem and Mevaseret, and as we drove down from the Central Mountain Spine of the country into the hills, and down from the hills onto the Coastal Plain, the sky was slowly growing lighter. White and the sky-blue color of tekheilet became recognizably distinct; sky blue and vegetative green asserted themselves; and as the pillar of dawn spread across the eastern sky we arrived at the airport, and i recognized a friend who was taking the same flight back to New York as i was.

As we waited on the security line, the sky got lighter. Hazy dawn colors sharpened and came into themselves, and the sun rose into the sky from back in the direction of Yerushalayim, ‘iro shel Haqodesh. Back in Jerusalem, friends were waking up; taking showers; going to mínyan, school and/or work.

Life went on without me.

The plane ride was uncomfortable. The food was good, as usual, though, and aside from the friend i met at the security lines i had two other friends on the plane who had just married each other (mazal tov and mabrouk!) and one of the flight attendents was a classmate from the university! I saw the movies "Robots" and "Sahara", and took a number of short naps in the awkward airplane seats.

At 1300 hours the plane landed in the Greater New York Metropolitan Area.

It was midday. People were at work, or school, or doing whatever else it is that people do when they do things.

We had landed in medias res.

The world had already been chugging along fine without me.

Time to get back into gear!

Plans (in no order):
 — meet R' Natan Slifkin in Queens
 — get another job interview or few
 — make some money to pay bills before that job thing kicks in
 — hang out with friends and family
 — work on curricula for classes
 — write papers
 — meet some of these NYC area bloggers i've read so much about?