Wednesday, February 28, 2007


+ Ner tamid (Ex. 27:20): the eternal flame, which hangs above the ark in pretty much every synagogue the world over. This is the first thing mentioned in this week's parshah. The comments in Etz Chayim focus on the importance of light and the meaning of light and fire. I'd never really thought about it, but as the commentary says
"... light itself cannot be seen. We become aware of its presence when it enables us to see other things. Similarly, we cannot see G-d, but we become aware of G-d's presence when we see the beauty of the world, when we experience love and the goodness of our fellow human beings."
The comments go on to describe fire as light that is liberated from a log of wood or a lump of coal, "even as G-d becomes real in our lives in the process of liberating the potential energy in each of us ..."

+ I find this parshah incredibly difficult (much like the past few) to read. It seems hard to consume all of the put this in gold, put that in gold, cover this in gold, make these laden with jewels, do this, do that. The extent to which the kohenim were doused with expensive gear is almost nauseating. This parshah seems so demanding. The clothing seems so extravagant. suggests:
So it is that all clothing indicates values, revealing with what part of society we identify and where our aspirations lie. The elaborate and startling clothing of the Kohanim indicate how their worldview and their values functioned too. The fact that they wore intricate and expensive clothing amidst general simplicity, that they wore elaborate jewelry when no one else did so, indicates that biblical Judaism stressed the royalty of G-d. Just as G-d's servants dressed like royalty, so we were to relate to the entire ritual surrounding G-d as though G-d were a grand sovereign.
But I struggle with this. I look at the Catholic Church today and see the "royal" status of the pope and I am filled with a sort of disgust. The suggestion that the priests were dressed up as a way of crowning G-d king just seems wrong. And even if that was the purpose of the royal garb and extravagance, then isn't that wrong?

I'll admit that were the Temple to be rebuilt, I would be filled with joy and excitement, but is not the Judaism that has thrived the Judaism of simplicity? The personal relationship with G-d, not the ritual-through-priests relationship with G-d.

I can't reconcile a time -- any time -- when such garments and expectations were thriving. BUT, there is a but. But perhaps this was a reflection of Egyptian culture?

+ And on that note, I have to touch on perhaps the most poignant piece of this parshah -- the olive oil. It's interesting because the parshah begins as I said earlier with the eternal light. The importance of light in Judaism cannot be overstated, either. Olive oil is specified for the lighting of the menorah, even though at the time, olives were pretty much impossible to acquire. There's a lot of commentaries and sermons written on the significance of olive oil in relation to the Jewish people, relating to it's inability to mix with other liquids despite it's ability to spread quickly and soak whatever it comes into contact with. As such, we are like olive oil -- the very substance which illuminates holy objects in our lives:
Like oil, Jews, too, will often find themselves mixing in a wide variety of circles -- social, business, civic, communal or political. And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. At the very same time, though, we need to remember never to lose our own identity. We should never mix to the point of allowing our own Jewish persona to be swallowed or diluted.
I think it's particularly important to reflect on this. At the same time, it makes me sad to think about the United States, and how it sort of demanded that everyone turn their oil into water. My only desire to study American Jewry comes from the analysis of assimilation and acculturation -- basically, the LOSS of the Jewish identity. I don't find American Jewry as a whole fascinating ... I simply find the lack of it interesting. Saddening, though. There is still a distinctness, but not in the way that it could have -- and should have -- ended up. Rawrgh.

A brief catch-up.

I'll admit I didn't get around to blogging on T'rumah last week. There are a bounty of reasons for it, including that I didn't get through it. The reason being that there's been a lot going on, and I left for Chicago on Friday (I'm still in Chicago, actually). So I'll briefly explain what's been going on, and then there'll be some bloggin' on this week's parshah, T'tzavveh.

I met with my boss last week to explain that I will no longer be working where I work as of March 16. Ian (that's the boyfriend) is flying out that day and we're driving all my goods to Chicago, where I am moving. I've been in Chicago since Friday just visiting, I needed a getaway. Also, when this trip was planned, the move to Chicago was not completely in stone. The past month has been incredibly, completely world-wind. I've taken a big leap and decided that I'm going to move to Chicago to pursue at least a piece of my world that I've been putting off for nearly three years. That's the boy, of course. I originally was going to tryout at RedEye (Chicago's free daily that's run by the Tribune Company), but after talking with my boss and finding out that there have been some "concerns" about my focus lately, I canceled the tryout. It isn't worth getting another newspaper job when it is so, 100 percent clear that I'm just not in it anymore. It was clear at that moment, when she issued her support and excitement for me that I realized I can't do newspapers anymore. I can't do the hours, the lifestyle, none of it.

So I'm moving to Chicago in nearly two weeks -- jobless. Anyone who knows me will know that this is probably the most outlandish, insane thing I could possibly do to myself, mostly because I am incredibly money conscious and paranoid about being broke. Especially after learning to NOT live from paycheck to paycheck these past six months or so. But here I am, throwing it to the wind and, with my savings in tow, I'm hoping to tough it out and find a gig working 9 to 5 or something like it. I don't really care what I'm doing, though I'll probably pursue a Jewish-oriented gig (Jewish Federation or the like) or a library position. I'm also applying for editing jobs, but only at places that are not, I repeat NOT, newspapers. I can edit, I love editing. Just not like that.

My reasons for moving are many. I already mentioned the boy, but there's also that I loathe Washington DC and that my job is obviously not working out. Additionally, I've compromised and neglected synagogue and my dedication and commitment to the Jewish community (for my personal growth, this is no type of competition) for the past eight months. I can't do it anymore. It's not something I'm willing to compromise any longer, and I thought I could for a little while, but there's a part of me that has suffered, and I now need to regain that part of me that used to sing when I stepped into synagogue.

Ian and I went to a shul here north of the city on Friday. I really liked the rabbi, but not so much the service. I struggled to focus on the material and the prayers because I was too frustrated that they were using the siddur from the 70s and that the congregation seemed stuck somewhere between Reform and Conservative. It shouldn't have bothered me, but it did. Well, and the fact that the wall behind the bimah looked like a giant wall of matzoh (it was supposed to be a makeup of the wall in Jerusalem, I believe).

Anyhow, I'm moving to Chicago in two weeks. I'm stoked, and if anyone who happens to read this regularly lives there or near there, let me know and we'll get coffee. Otherwise, I raise my Chai to the future, in hopes that I'll find what I'm looking for in study, focus and happiness.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Faithful Questions

"You don't learn by having faith. You learn by questioning, by challenging, by re-examining everything you've ever believed.

And yet, all this is a matter of faith -- the faith that there is a truth to be found.

To truly question, you must truly have faith." (Lubavitcher Rebbe)


A Poetic Interlude!

Okay. I was originally posting an Oi Va Voi video. And then I found this. It's of the style of SLAM poetry. And it's beautiful. I particularly like the line "i never found god i just ran out of excuses not to" and "i learned how to get to the point where the only rules i followed were the ones i cared about, and that, is how i found g-d." Brilliant.

Be sure to check out Jewish Impact Films!!! So good.

One of my favorite is the kosher vid, and especially, this noir about Passover and chametz!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


A question: Is the West drudging up the bloody history of many African nations purely to entertain Western audiences?

I'm up late watching ABC News. This question arose after a discussion on "The Last King of Scotland," which I have yet to view. I know how touched I was by "Hotel Rwanda." These things aren't that old, though. They're the leftovers of colonialism, largely by the Brits and French. Cultural values instilled by a group of white folk who like to play power roles, shaping a people like clay and such.

Then again, we support coups all the time, placing leaders into power (that sometimes bite us in the bum).

Interesting though. Are we genuinely touched by the events of Rwanda and Darfur? Or is it purely entertainment that is sensationalized by Hollywood for a couple Oscar nominations?

Monday, February 19, 2007

I could have picked many, but I like this one.

"...If statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky way. properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world's list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and had done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it.

The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed; and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?"

-- Mark Twain in "Concerning the Jews," Harper's Magazine, 1899

Saturday, February 10, 2007

It never goes away.

Because you accosting Elie Wiesel will really scare the man who survived the horrors of the Nazi death camps. Really cool, man.

The human rights advocate was accosted in a hotel, a man has claimed to have committed the assault on an antiSemitic Web site. See the story HERE.


A nod for a book.

I'm currently reading "Lipshitz 6, or Two Angry Blondes" by T. Cooper. The hardcover was released last year and the paperback this year. I saw the book sitting among the stacks of weekly tabs that are laid out near the obituaries desks at the front of the fifth floor of our office building. Typically books are put on the cart in the cafeteria (in free-for-all style) or piled up on the fourth floor with DVD promos and un-edited versions of hit prime time TV shows that we've either reviewed or thrown aside. But this book was not in either of those spots. It was next to the plant amid the stacks. Its bright neon orange/red cover clearly caught my eye and the fact that it was in crisp condition sort of made me wonder if maybe someone had set it there on the way to the bathroom and intended on retrieving it. Alas, I picked it up and took it. No clue what it was about, I read the back cover and realized that the cover spoke so little about the book, but flipping through it, it struck me as a Vonnegut-style text with interspersed documents and texts that break up the story.

Then I started reading it. I can't put it down. It's drawn me in and it's nothing like Vonnegut, in fact, it's like nothing I've ever read. It's very much a typical narrative, but in a very unique way. Maybe it's the story that has me clouded and able to excuse the fact that it's just a story. But I happ'd upon the author's Web site and an article in the New York Times re: the book. It turns out it's based loosely on the author's family history. The back cover reads:
"Upon landing at Ellis Island in 1903, Esther and Hersh Lipshitz discover their son Reuven is missing. The child is never found, and decades later, Esther becomes convinced that the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh is her lost boy. Esther's manic obsession spirals out of control, leaving far-reaching effects on the entire Lipshitz lineage. In the present, we meet T Cooper -- the last living Lipshitz -- who struggles to make sense of all that came before him and what legacy he might leave behind."
I'm struggling with whether the author is a man or a woman, not that it matters, but the photos I see of T Cooper make me think the author is a woman. The gender-neutrality on the official Web site is fascinating, and the choice on the back cover to choose "him" makes me wonder if I'm insane.

Perhaps I'm drawn to the story because it discusses the pogroms of Russia and the immigration of a Jewish family to the U.S. I'm only 78 pages in, and it has sat next to me at work the whole night purely taunting me. In so few pages there has been such tragedy, yet such hope. I have no clue where the book will go and whether my passion will remain as fiery as it is right now. I can only hope so, of course.

The reviews on are incredibly mixed. I'm unfamiliar with the author and his/her other works, so I can't really say. If I am clouded by my inherent need to read Jewish-American Fiction -- every. last. bit of it. It's what I do!

Friday, February 9, 2007

Some additions to Yitro.

I neglected to consult Rashi yesterday re: the parshah. So I was poking around on today (they do this really nice split screen bit with Rashi's commentary and the parshah). Of course Etz Chayim included some Rashi commentary, but not the GOOD stuff.

For example, I queried why the first portion of Yitro expresses multiple times that Jethro is Moses's father-in-law. As if one or two times weren't enough, it's restated five times in the first seven verses. Rashi's commentary:
Moses’ father-in-law. Here Jethro prides himself on [his relationship to] Moses, [saying,] “I am the king’s father-in-law.” In the past, Moses attributed the greatness to his father-in-law, as it is said: “Moses went and returned to Jether, his father-in-law” (Exod. 4:18). ... the text is speaking of Jethro’s praise, that he lived amidst the greatest honor of the world, but his heart prompted him to go forth to the desert wasteland to hear words of Torah. ... As a token of honor, Scripture refers to him as the king’s father-in-law [and not by his name].
So Rashi is saying that there is an emphasis on the greatness viewed by Jethro of Moses and vice-a-versa. The emphasis isn't to say "yo, did you forget? Jethro is Moses's father-in-law!" But rather, to emphasize their special, mutually respected relationship.

Rashi's take on the verse "on that day" to mean quite the same as many other sages, indeed.
on this day. On the New Moon (Mechilta, Shab. 86b). It could have said only, “on that day.” What is the meaning of "on this day"? That the words of the Torah shall be new to you, as if they were given just today.
This is why each year we cycle through Torah, refreshing our minds and seeing the text anew. I cannot imagine approaching Torah any other way, and I look forward to the future years in which I wil read and reread the parshah as I read them in this year, 5767. It's like watching a movie over and over, your eye always catches something new and different. Additionally, reading Torah as if it were just given today allows one to feel constantly refreshed by the text and constantly renewed in Judaism.

I sometimes wonder what it would do to Judaism for each of the Jewish people to spend a little time everyday with Torah. It would make the faith and culture more alive than before. I now understand yeshiveh and the dedication of true Torah scholars. I strive to become as one someday, someday soon.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Yitro: The covenant revelation

This is THE parshah. By THE, I mean it's the giving of the Torah at Sinai. This is a long entry, but there's some interesting stuff re: the Zodiac and the "commandments" in here, as well as a take on "Thou shall not kill" versus "Thou shall not murder" (something I'm very, very adament about). So if anything, browse and check out the BOLD stuff, which at least might be of interest! I want to know people are actually reading this ... not that I do this for other people. It's for me and my Torah education, but it kills me to not have anyone to talk it over with. It's Torah STUDY! Not Torah ... um ... alonetime? Hah.

+ In the first seven verses of this parshah, it is emphasized FIVE times that Jethro is Moses's father-in-law. But why? Jethro, of course, is responsible for suggesting the organization of a judiciary to Moses, which is why the story of the exodus departs for this narrative. In the next five verses, his father-in-law status again is repeated over and over. ... You know, just in case we forgot.

+ Chapter 19 of Exodus goes into the encampment in the wilderness. Some of the comments on the sages thoughts on the fact that this all happened in the third month (Sivan) are interesting. Sivan falls along with the zodiacal sign Gemini, the twins. According to the comments, "The Sages ... take it as symbolizing the equal importance of the written Torah and the oral Torah." I think it's interesting that the sages saw a connection/significance enough to note such a connection. The notation is quick to point out, though, that the sages never used the zodiac to predict the future or to implicate in people's lives, but that they did appear frequently in decorations and the scales of justice (Libra) even came to signify the High Holy Days. What an interesting slice of insight into the sages ...

+ Ex. 19:1 has some more interesting notes on the emphasis that the Israelites had gone forth from the land of Egypt when it says "on that very day, they entered the wilderness of Sinai." Via the comments on the verse,
"The Hebrew here literally means 'on this day' ... as if to suggest that on any day when a Jew accepts the obligations of the Torah, it is as if he or she were there that day, standing at Sinai and hearing the voice of G-d."
Rashi adds that "every time a Jew reads the Torah, it should be as if for the first time." Other citations discuss further the implications of the simple "on that very day" as relating to converts and their role in Judaism, saying that when they join the nation, it is as if they, too, were standing there that very day.

+ Ex. 19:5-6 -- "Now then, if you will obey Me faithfully and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all the peoples. Indeed, all the earth is Mine, but you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation ..."

I imagine this is probably the "hardcore" point-and-look spot for those who get all hot and bothered about the Jews being the "chosen" nation. Indeed, it says that Israel shall be the "treasured" nations among all others. I've spent a lot of time trying to explain the idea of choseness as I understand it and as Judaism understands it, but most people don't seem to take well to it, regardless of any explanation. Jews have "no monopoly on G-d," as the commentary provides. At the same time, the "treasured possession" among all the nations merely implies that the special relationship is one of the leading example. The nation of Israel is set up at this point to lead as an example that Torah is accessible and liveable, that G-d is one. It's often mistaken as a superiority complex, which I can understand, but look at the Jews, the world's oldest monotheistic group. It's quite compelling.

+ There's something interesting in the comments after discussing the special relationship Israel has with G-d: "This is true not only when the rest of the world is pagan but will also be true in the future, even after all the nations will have turned to G-d." Now, I suppose I haven't spent a lot of time studying the end of days and the appearance of Moshiach (it's something I'm sort of putting off in order to wrap my head around it all), but this sings of the basis of Christianity (aside from the whole Jesus as the son of G-d bit). This comment basically suggests that all nations should/will turn to G-d, yet does not suggest how this will happen or when this will happen. Is it an advocation of proselytizing? I suppose the requirement for Moshiach is that all people turn to G-d ... or is it? Is it just Israel? "All the nations." Torah never suggests (as far as I know) how this is to be accomplished, though. Christianity banks on the firm believe in proselytizing and recruiting. Why has this never been a policy of Jews if it is expected that all nations will turn to G-d?

+ There's an interesting take on the people's reaction to G-d's word via Moses in Ex. 19:7-8. One tradition evidently suggests that G-d was compelled to lift the mountain above the peoples' heads, threatening to crush them with it unless they accepted Torah (BT Shab. 88a). Now, there is the loving G-d and the vengeful G-d, Torah does a masterful job of displaying the two. But there's nothing in the original verse that suggests such a thing. Additionally, I don't really know that a G-d would scare his people into believing, would G-d? Personally, I prefer (most trust in) the tradition that G-d offered Torah to many other nations, yet they all rejected it for it's strictness and duty.

+ Ex. 19:15 emphasizes the importance of purity from not going near a woman prior to G-d's revelation. The revelation, however, is meant and presented to all -- men and women, alike. The comments on this stress that "despite Judaism's emphasis on family and congregation as settings for fashioning holiness, sometimes we need distance from others, even from those with whom we are most intimate, to find G-d." This, of course, reminds me of an article I read on regarding the mechitzah. (I thought I blogged on it, in fact I know I did. But I can't find it.) The article emphasizes the difficulty in praying -- even while alone, but more so when you have those you love near you. Finding focus and being able to truly focus on prayer is incredibly difficult. The mechitzah often is seen as sexist and wrong and keeping women and men divided (a sexist, segregationist philosophy, if you will). But after reading that article and reading these comments, I believe more so that the mechitzah is an incredibly positive tool for prayer, as perhaps it is one way to try so very hard to create concentration. (Now, I'm not Orthodox and don't go to an Orthodox shul, but I have attended Chabad services and found the most frustrating part of the mechitzah was being unable to see the rabbi.)

+ Ahh, the presentation of the commandments. Commandments? Wait a second. The Hebrew says aseret ha-d'varim which translates very simply as "the ten words." Commandment, or mitzvah in Hebrew, doesn't appear in the text as such. When the Jews translated the Hebrew into Greek, they used the phrase deka logoi, or decalogue. So it is probably better to refer to the "commandments" as The Decalogue.

The commentary points out that The Decalogue is unique to most other forms of law of the ancient. If you look at most legal systems, they included "If ... then ..." statements. The 10 statements were unique in that they were simply DO NOT DO THIS!

+ The commandment of Shabbat ... how torturous you are to me. I currently work Friday nights and Saturdays at 3 p.m. I've expressed my distress as such, and vowed that my next job will in no way keep me from Shabbat (the whole, full thing, damnit); it is not something with which I am willing to compromise any longer. The most heart-wrenching thing about it, though, has been highlighted in the comments of Etz Chayim: "Those whose circumstances make it impossible to keep Shabbat as they would like to, should at least find ways to remind themselves that it is Shabbat." I wish I could count the times that I'm sitting at work on a Friday night, mulling about my work, when suddenly it hits me "Blimey, it's Shabbat!" A rush of guilt and sadness rushes over me. Not guilt because it's one of those things you're SUPPOSED to do, but because it is so much a part of me that the fact that I have lost that immediate recognition of it. It's distressing and depressing and hopefully by this time next month or a little beyond that, I will once again reclaim the part of me that lives and breathes Shabbat (where there is challah, blessings, candles, shul, Torah, discussion, Havdalah).

+ My FAVORITE commandment! That is, the one I most argue, is "Thou shall not murder." Notice that it says "murder" and not "kill" ...? There is a difference, by the way. The original Hebrew translates as murder, which relates to the premeditated, unlawful killing of a person by another. Killing, on the other hand, is any act that brings about the end of someone or something's life. Many a person has tried to argue "BUT THEY ARE THE SAME!" but they are NOT. This is where my biggest opposition of placing the Ten Commandments in public places arises from. In many instances, these monuments feature symbols of Christianity and Judaism, but they always feature the words "Thou shall not kill," which is not the Jewish commandment, I'm sorry. The distinction is absolutely, positively necessary. Killing can occur from self-defense, and do those persons who commit such an action deserve one of the biggest clouds hanging over their head? The woman being raped kills her attacker after he has beat her nearly dead ... is this woman guilty of breaking a commandment? Hell no she isn't. Perhaps, yes, it is unfortunate, but in no way is the woman guilty of committing sin. She need not go to her local parish to repent or to spend the High Holy Days asking for forgiveness. At least not in my view, darn't.

+ Adultery! Martin Buber had a beautiful take on marriage and committed relationships: "G-d is found in relationships." Further, the comments say, "G-d is present when two people pledge themselves to each other; G-d is present in a home sustained by marital love."

+ I want to conclude this Torah entry (which I really could expand soooo much further on, but don't want to eat up too much space, plus it'll be things to write on in future editions, as this is going to be a forever-life-study kind of thing) by talking about the divine origin of Torah. It is, perhaps, the most difficult thing for most to deal with (aside from the prophets and G-d approaching the patriarchs and Moses). There's a great audio clip over at that discusses the divine origin of Torah, that at first seems sort of dragging and lengthy, but when it gets to the point, boy does it get to the point. The speaker goes through the creation of the world's religions and the idea behind revelation, what is plausible and what seems (by most accounts) not to be. That is, the commentator addresses the fact that Judaism (the covenant and revelation) began with G-d appearing to the masses, not merely one or two persons (Islam, Christianity, etc.).

I'm not about to say other religions are wrong or inaccurate or implausible, because if there's one thing I learned from being non-religious for the greater portion of my life, it is that there is no way to know who is right and who is wrong or whether anything we are devoted to is, in fact, the way. But it is interesting how such a long-lasting beliefs system managed to spread to all Israelites in such an amazingly efficient way that simple word-of-mouth could not have accomplished by any comprehensible, sane means. Millions of people? All who believe that there was revelation at Sinai? Such a LARGE /lie/ could not have been told.

Anyhow, it's an interesting soundbite definitely worth a huge listen. I'd be interested to talk it over with anyone, too. It helped me further formulate a belief in divine origin, even if I do have certain questions and curiosities re: the revelation.

When is compromise too much?

I kept meaning to post this article, but I kept not doing it. It frustrates me, and I'll point out the points of the article that are particularly infuriating. The topic: The Red Cross-Red Crescent's adoption of the Red Diamond to include Israel's Magen David Adom Society (MDA). MDA used to use the Magen David, of course, but the international society refused to accept it as their symbol. There were some discussions on a forum I frequent, and some points were made that I found pretty ridiculous. First, some things from the article:
"The problem is, the star of David is primarily Israel's national symbol, rather than an emblem of humanitarian relief."
Now, this is a BBC article. I'm sort of shocked at this because the Red Crescent is clearly a symbol of Islamic/Muslim society. The crescent first appeared during the Ottoman Empire because one of the officials thought using the Red Cross would alienate the Muslim soldiers. Thus, the Red Crescent was born. Now, explain to me how that is an emblem of humanitarian relief? How does that validate the symbol any more than using the star of David? We can use the red CROSS and red CRESCENT but not the red STAR. I'm frustrated and irritated.

A friend on the forum suggested that Israel should strive to use a symbol that doesn't not INCITE violence, and instead is neutral. Because, you know, seeing the star of David incites violence, yet the crescent in no way has any implications? What an argument.
"Arab states have made it clear they will never accept the red star being recognised under the Geneva Conventions."
And thus the red diamond was accepted. How is this right? Fair? Yes, it's a compromise and probably not a battle worth enveloping ourselves in, but it seems so unjust. It's hypocritical and ridiculous. Again, it's a compromise. A compromise to ease the minds of everyone else.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Let's take a tangent.

I have to post this. Why? Because of my Midwestern loyalty. And because I deeply love football. And because I'm leaving work early to go home to WATCH the Super Bowl. Of course it doesn't compare to year's past when festivities included homemade pizza and cheese/meat dip made by a friend's father. Those were the good ole' days. Tonight, however, it'll be me, a pizza, some work from home, and the TV. Glory to the Bears!

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Go plant a tree or something!

Tu B'Shevat: the Celebration of Trees

The 15th of Shevat (that's today, Saturday) is the "New Year" for trees (there are four new years in Judaism), and is marked by eating of the seven kinds, sometimes at in a seder setting. These are the fruits and grains that Torah relates with the Holy Land's fertility: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates (Deut. 8:8). There is, to some such as the Kabbalists, a significance to each kind.

Many relate to the significance of trees by means of establishing and caring for roots -- that which connects us to our past and promises us a fruitful future. Torah states: "Man is like the tree of the field" (Deut. 20:19). The Lubavitcher Rebbe suggested that

We are trees, living two lives at once. One life breaking through the soil into this world. Where, with all our might, we struggle to rise above it, grapple for its sun and its dew, desperate not to be torn away by the fury of its storms or consumed by its fires.

Then there are our roots, deep under the ground, unmoving and serene. They are our ancient mothers and fathers, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rivkah, Yaacov, Leah and Rachel. They lie deep within us, at our very core.

For those interested, the legality of the day relates to tithes and what must be set aside according to Torah.

When you come to the land and you plant any tree, you shall treat its fruit as forbidden; for three years it will be forbidden and not eaten. In the fourth year, all of its fruit shall be sanctified to praise the Lord. In the fifth year, you may eat its fruit. (Lev. 19:23-25)
The celebration of this activity is not mentioned specifically in Torah, but is apparent in Mishnah. Aside from seders and fruit consumption, the day is also sometimes viewed as the Jewish "Arbor Day." If I had a lawn, perhaps I'd plant a tree. But alas. Instead, I'll find me some grapes and olives and nosh.

Chag Sameach!

Friday, February 2, 2007

Movie!: A new series, I guess.

So the way I roll is that I go through Netflix and rent all the Jewish movies I can. Israeli, Holocaust, Diaspora, history, religion, etc. Why? Because it's what I do. I've mentioned two movies that I found astounding already, and I have another to add. The movie? "The Harmonists." The first photo here is of the movie fellows. The photo down below is of the actual group, taken sometime in the 1930s.

It's based on the true story of the German sextet the Comedian Harmonists. Half the group is Jewish and half is Gentile. This isn't even something they think about, let alone care about when they form to create a group based on the popular U.S. group the Revellers. They become a sort of subtle-humor-filled a capella group (although one of the sextet is actually the pianist, who accompanies them). The movie is based around the success and subsequent demise of the group, particularly at the hands of the Nazis, who take over and shut down their career because of the Jewish members.

The great thing about the group is that despite it all, there was never any intra-group rivalry involved with religion, race or ethnic affiliation. It's definitely a feel-good story.

If anything, the flick is worth watching because the music that appears in it is all remastered from original recordings of the group. It's a little awkward to watch, of course, because despite the best remastering work, it still has that old-tyme sound to it. But it adds a lot of flavor to the flick. And at about two hours, it flies by, truly.

PS: If you hate subtitles, my apologies. Most of the flicks I watch have subtitles, because I find some of the best films aren't hammered out in the U.S.