Sunday, May 28, 2006

מַחַר, חֹדֶשׁ; הַיּוֹם, סְכַּנְדָּל

Goot Khaydesh!

Yesterday we read the haftara of Mahhar Hhodesh ("Tomorrow is New Month's Day"), from Shemu’eil/Samuel 1:20:18-42. It tells the story of [future King] David and Yonatan [son of Sha’ul, the present king], and how notwithstanding Sha’ul's paranoid fear and hatred of David, David and Yonatan were very close friends who cared deeply for each other. David avoided going to the Rosh Hhodesh meal of Yonatan's family, because he knew that Sha’ul wanted to kill him, and so Yonatan devised a way to warn him of impending danger.

Due to various ways the book of Shemu’eil describes the relationship between David and Yonatan, many people today have come to the conclusion that David and Yonatan had some kind of homosexual relationship. Now, I'm not actually going to discuss the evidence for or against such a reading, because what I want to discuss is something I am sure of — whether or not Yonatan and David had such a relationship, King Sha’ul definitely thought they did.
Shemu’eil/Samuel 1:20:30
And then Sha’ul's anger burned against Yonatan, and he said, "Son of perverted rebellion! Don't I know that you choose Yishai's son to your own shame and the shame of your mother's nakedness?!"

He then goes on to point out to his son that by supporting David, Yonatan is undermining his own chances to inherit the throne of Israel from his father. But what I find intriguing is the language that Sha’ul uses in berating Yonatan — it's sexual terminology. ‘ERVA (nakedness). BOSHET (shame or private). He doesn't say that Yonatan is "choosing" David 'to your downfall, and the downfall of your father's kingdom' (which would fit with the next verse), but 'to your shame, and the shame of your mother's nakedness'. And he refuses to spell out exactly what David has done to deserve capital punishment, simply chucking his spear at his son instead.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


“The Mt. Sinai 'scene' is just like the O.Z. 'scene' — except with higher necklines, lower hemlines, and darker suits!”

(overheard in upper manhattan)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Malicious Stereotypes

Go check out the new Mac TV ads at the Apple website.

Such stereotypes!

The PC guy is a slightly-nerdy older guy with glasses in a suit and tie.

The Mac guy is a young cool guy with a slightly-wild haircut and a hint of scruffiness wearing a sweatshirt, t-shirt and jeans.

What kind of message is this sending to the children?!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Why I Celebrate Lag La‘Omer

I don't believe that Qabbala is the One True Jewish Cosmology™.

I don't even believe in Kabbala in general.
(i prefer the more rationalistic philosophies)

And I certainly don't believe that Ribbí Shim‘on bar Yohhai wrote the Zohar.
(that was all R' Moshe de León in medieval Ispamya)

But I do believe that those who prowled God's Heavenly Halls, counted and weighed Spheres and Emanations, and danced Cartwheels during prayer were on to something. They were looking for Experiential Judaism. It's one thing to philosophize intellectually about God; it's another to meditate oneself into a state in which God is unmistakably present.

It's a dangerous path — the story of the four sages who ventured into God's Garden, and only Ribbí ‘Aqiva came out unscathed, teaches us that — but I believe that everyone must take a few steps along it themself. Not necessarily in the footsteps of a preexisting philosophy of esoterica — as King David said, "[such] incomprehensible mistakes; cleanse me of [so-called] 'hidden things'!" — since, after all, Cabbala has had some very negative effects on the history of Yahadut, but in an open, undogmatic manner. Meditation. Prayer. Concentration. These are tools towards experiencing God.

Go out and hug that Tree of Life.

And get ecstatic in honor of R' Shim‘on bar Yohhai, mascot of Experiential Judaism.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Great Orthodox Schism Escalates

A few months ago the Great Orthodox Schism of the 21st Century was just polemics and brawls — now we're moving on to WHOLESALE DISENFRANCHISEMENT?

Check out the ADDeRabbi's frightening read of the Rabbanut/RCA conversion scandal.

Hold on to your knit yarmulkas and jean skirts, Orthodox boys and girls, it looks like it's gonna be a bumpy ride...

Monday, May 08, 2006

Zombie Rebbe

Someone, somewhere, was talking about something involving the idea of mashiahh, or Chabad, or something like that, and a commenter claimed that there's nothing wrong with believing that a dead person is the mashiahh — R' Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, for instance — and that "when the moshiach comes, we'll know who it is" because there's no way to disprove options.

I responded that we do know that a dead person cannot come back as mashiahh, and that if the Lubavitcher Rebbe comes back, all we'll know is that he's a zombie. And then we all joked some more about zombie rebbes.

Anyone remember where this was?

U          P          D          A          T          E

Here it is, in the comments of this post by Godol Hador.

The Godol Hador šlit"a asked:
And why don't the Gedolim ban the heck out of Lubavitch?

To which lakewood yid responded:
Because there is no need to.
If the Rebbe comes out his grave, we'll except him as moshiach.
And as long as he down under, he's harmless.

And so I then said to Lakewood Yid:
LY, dead people aren't mashiahh.
If the Rebbe comes out of his grave, we'll accept him as a zombie.
That's about it.

Where's my chainsaw?

And then Godol Hador briefly responded to my comment:

So lakewood yid asked me:
If the Rebbe comes out his grave, and accept him as a zombie, will you start believing in the golem?

And I responded with an important hhiluq, and added:
zombie = reanimated corpse (usually evil)
golem = animated inanimate matter (classicly good)

Now werewolves that's what i'd like to see! Supposedly that's what it means (according to Prof. Alick Isaacs of Hebrew U) in the Ashkenazic text of Tefillat Haderekh when it asks God to protect us from hhayot ra‘ot.

But then YS yelled at lakewood yid, who responded:
Just playing with Steg.

Chill out, YS.

So then I told lakewood yid:
Play with my goblin minions, sucka!   ;-)

And lakewood yid brilliantly bounced back with:
goblin. golin. golim. golem.   :-)

Holy Hyrax then jumped in:
oooohh, ooooh.
Can you imagine a fight between the Golem and a zombie rabbi.
Who would win?

So that's about it.

mmmm... zombies!!!
grrr... arrrg...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

אין מערבבין שמחה בשמחה

Today is my [Gregorian calendar] bloggiversary. One year ago today I put up what I thought would be just a pseudo-blog with my picture and a few links. A non-blog, if you will. That was such a gateway drug.

Today is also Yom Ha‘atzma’ut, Israeli Independence Day.

Due to the principle of "one does not mix joy with joy", I will only celebrate one of these two momentous (snort) occasions. You can guess which one.

חג שמח

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

יום הזכרון

I remember the sirens for Yom Hasho’a and Yom Hazikaron.

In the Valley of the Aboriginal Ghosts, Southern Jerusalem, it looked like the Land itself had come to a halt. The surrounding hills — Talpiyot to the east, Gilo to the south, and Qatamon to the northwest — sounded like they were screaming. The sound of each siren echoed over the next one, until all of Jerusalem — all of Israel — maybe even the entire world — was screaming, screeching and wailing, not for a wall but for human beings. For death in the struggle for life.

As if the Refa’im themselves were dragging closed the rusty and straining gates of She’ol, to stem the downwards flow of dead. There's no more room down there in the deeps.

Two years ago, President Moshe Katsav said:
...Jewish History and the annals of Zionism have taught us that the Land is acquired through suffering. Judea fell in blood and fire and has arisen again in blood and fire. The soil of our land is saturated with the blood of those who fell...

...On this day we are all one large family. In all our hearts a string trembles upon seeing the sorrow enveloping the bereaved families. We bow our heads before the families of the casualties of the Israel Defense Force and the security forces - the Jews, Druze, Bedouin, Circassians, Muslims and Christians who all share in the great pain, the pain of loss...

...May the memory of the heroes be blessed...

Monday, May 01, 2006

Super Sanhedrin to the Rescue?

I've heard a number of different Orthodox rabbis and teachers claim that when the Sanhedrin is reconstituted, they will have the power to make broad sweeping changes in halakhic reality. One person, a Jewish legal scholar, identifies the lack of a Sanhedrin (and therefore the lack of a living legal system) as the greatest tragedy of galut (exile). Someone else my brother has expressed this idea as Orthodoxy's ideal being Conservatism — the only practical difference between the two movements is that they believe that they have power over Halakha that we believe you need a Sanhedrin for.

The Arutz Sheva Sanhedrin doesn't seem interested in making any positive changes in the state of Jewish Law. All I've seen them do so far is declare individuals officially Noahides, seemingly so that going around killing all the other, non-explictily Noahide, Non-Jews in the area wouldn't be a 'legal problem'.

A distinguished rabbi I know once claimed that one of the first things a reconstituted Sanhedrin would probably do is improve the status of women in Halakha. I wish that were the case, but I doubt it. So much mental and physical effort has gone on in the Orthodox world to justify inegalitarianism as God's ideal for what Jewish society should look like that I can't see any but the most left-leaning Modern Orthodox Sanhedrin members pushing for such a legal change.

What do you think a reconstituted Sanhedrin should deal with?
(and do you think it's likely?)