Archive for category Judaism

If Ignorance is Bliss, Why Aren’t Americans Happier?

Nicholas Kristof

Nicholas Kristof

Nicholas Kristof’s column in yesterday’s New York Times laments the lack of knowledge many Christians evidence regarding their own Scriptures.  Kristof also challenges secular Americans to seek greater knowledge about the religions of others.

Before I explicitly respond to his column, let me share a story. Its relevance I’ll make apparent later.

Many years ago, I was sitting in an airplane beside a little old lady who spent the flight immersed in her Bible… until my kosher meal arrived.  At that point, she felt compelled to save my soul.  Read the rest of this entry »

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While Obama Ran the Country

Jed BartletOur Intemperate Correspondent writes:

Regarding Maureen Dowd’s October 6th Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, entitled: Two Presidents, Smoking and Scheming. I finally read it through. It’s better after learning that the other guy was a TV-show president. Quite funny, and she sounds like Obama when he gets going.

It must have been easy, being a TV pres, the lines are all written by somebody else. Kind of like Romney; they try to never let him speak his own words; he usually screws up. I think they worked for a week on how to lie most loudly, while Obama ran the country. Obama maybe had to talk to an Arab before the debate that day.

The common, ignorant people don’t care or understand what is said, nor if simple-minded lies are spoken; they really can’t tell the difference. It’s just who looks and sounds better, strong, confident; and because the masses are so amazingly ignorant (and sadly quite stupid) they will follow any bully or insulting ass, They are like the mob following the shouter and the finger pointer.

They will vote on reinforced prejudice if they feel a swing that way, to justify their instinct to disparage those they don’t understand, or who sound or look different from them. They are easily swayed by any lie that panders to their self-centered, greedy nature. Without the teaching of enlightened religion — such as was growing so well here in 1905 — and little real education, they are left with nothing at all to go on. They don’t understand anything about making a future world.

Even superstitious religion gave them something beyond the greed, security, and physical comfort that instinctively is their goal in life. And those instincts are all they are left with when the superstitious parts of their religion are no longer believed. Most never understood the true philosophical parts. It was mostly about getting them to not live as animals for a few centuries. As we saw at WWII, the results were mixed.

They may need superstitious allegories to affect behavior, just so as to not stand in the way of the better world to come (right here on earth); just as they did in the Mediterranean two thousand years ago, and in the High Middle Ages; these people who got the germ of their best idea from us, at least the simple version proposed by the “Buddhist Rabbi.” But perhaps they cannot be returned to that kind of influence — it would mean giving up on their possibility of progressing individually — and certainly it backfired a few times on these “enlightened”, as in their confusion and tendency to violence (partly genetic?) the converted pagans went off track and started killing the hand that fed them (us Jews), forgetting what their “rabbi” told them: the little trick that would let them become a part of the concept of historical progress, change deliberately created through time, toward a future destination in  mind, to both enjoy the fruits of civilization and to help create paradise.

Since they could not be Jewish — as that requires fluid literacy by age thirteen, and study of the true force of creation, and adherence to 613 some odd laws to create the society and state of mind that would propel that future — he gave them maybe 10, and boiled that down to a sentence: “Do unto others …”

I gather Paul, in Aleppo and elsewhere, saw that even that was too much, and his followers often became confused. He tried reducing it to just three words, the simple trick whereby they could help to make the new world: “Love one another”.

They didn’t… and this is the U.S. electorate.

They also, for the most part, never quite learned how to read properly. But they can tell the string beans from the chile, with the help of pictures on the label. Today my new painter pretended to be reading the color on the paint can when I pointed to the little label they stick on the lid. It’s something I’ve become used to.

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Foreskin Man

foreskin man - anti-semitic comic book about circumcisionMost of the Californians who would ban a bris are well-meaning but ignorant; only a few are ill intentioned.   But the foolishness and the antisemitism become conflated when you watch their videos or read their written materials.

Their rhetoric often describes painful practices and botched operations performed by doctors in hospitals, rather than the practices of mohelim in synagogues.  Those hospital practices are irrelevant to traditional Jews.  A bris doesn’t happen in a hospital; a bris typically happens in shul, right after the Shacharit (daily morning) service.

antisemitic comic book distorts JudaismAnd we’d never use an ordinary doctor, only a mohel.  First, because we Jews are required to have a bris, not a mere circumcision.  (A medically circumcised Jew, or a baby born without a foreskin, still needs to have a bris.)  Second, an experienced mohel is medically preferable to an experienced doctor; he typically has done hundreds if not thousands of these minor operations, and he does nothing else; while a doctor does many different procedures, including perhaps only dozens of circumcisions.

Antisemites project thier own evil onto their fantasies of Judaism.  Here gun-toting rabbis abduct children to circumcize them, like the forced baptisms of past centuries.  In this antisemitic fantasy, these rabbis lust for the taste of the baby's blood

Antisemites project thier own evil onto their fantasies of Judaism. Here, gun-toting rabbis abduct children to circumcise them, like the forced baptisms by Christians of past centuries. In this antisemitic fantasy, these rabbis lust for the taste of the baby's blood.

Some anti-bris promotional materials are quite inflammatory, showing babies being strapped to boards to immobilize them for the convenience of a doctor.  This of course does not happen at a Jewish bris, where the baby rests on a pillow in the lap of the sandek, a loving relative, typically a grandparent.

 

The great majority of the protesters have never seen a traditional bris, and some harbor antisemitic emotional baggage.  To see this blend of ignorance and antisemitism in action — and I do mean action! — check out Foreskin Man, an anti-semitic comic book that advocates for a federal ban on circumcision. Read the rest of this entry »

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Circumcision Ballot Question Makes the Cut

parents and eight day old son at the brisA proposal to ban circumcision in San Francisco will appear on the November ballot in that city.  This will be the nation’s  first public vote on what has long been considered a private religious matter.  If passed, it would undoubtedly be challenged in the courts as a blatant violation of the constitutional rights of Jews and Muslims, yet this ballot initiative received more than 7,700 signatures.

If the measure passes, circumcision would be prohibited, with no religious exemptions.  The bris — the sacred rite that launches the partnership between Jews and God —  would become a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine of up to $1,000; or up to one year in jail.  In a city that’s renowned for being open-minded, such an intolerant proposition seems bizaare.

Muslims are similarly affected, for circumcision also is widely practiced by Muslims (but at age thirteen);  and while circumcision does not appear in the Koran, it is mentioned in the Sunnah, the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.

This attack upon Judaism and Islam is even more striking when one considers that international health organizations have promoted circumcision as an important strategy for reducing the spread of the AIDS virus, based on studies that showed it can prevent AIDS among heterosexual men in Africa.  Circumcision also reduces the incidence of other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as penile cancer and urinary tract infections. Read the rest of this entry »

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Parshah HaShavua in Outer Space

“An Article of Hope” is an award-winning documentary about the tiny Torah Scroll that Colonel Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut, carried into space.   The Torah’s journey starts in the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen, and eventually reaches the day it was celebrated aboard the space shuttle Columbia.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Moses on the Internet!

The Story of Passover… as recorded by the Net Nanny installed on Moses’s PC… if  Moses had been an adept Internet user.

The more I watch it, the more I see.  FUNNY.

 

Have a Happy Passover!

 

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One God, One World, One Shlomo Carlebach

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You Can’t Take it With You

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The Bagel Theory

President George W. Bush Reading the Talmud?It all started when Dodie Miller– who wears a kippah — was back in college and suffering through a tedious lecture. As the professor  droned on, a previously-unknown young woman leaned over and  whispered in his ear,  “This class is as boring as my Zayde’s seder.”

You see, the woman knew that she did not ‘look’ Jewish, nor did she wear any identifying signs like a Star of David.  So foregoing the awkward declaration, ‘I’m Jewish,’ the girl devised a more nuanced — and frankly, cuter — way of heralding her heritage.

This incident launched a hypothesis which would henceforth be known as the Bagel Theory.  The Bagel Theory stands for the principle that  we Jews, regardless of how observant or affiliated we are, have a powerful need to connect with one another. To that end, we find ways to ‘bagel’ each other — basically, to ‘out’ ourselves to fellow Jews.

bagelThere are two ways to bagel. The brave or simply unimaginative will tell you straight out that they are Jewish (a plain bagel). But the  more creative will concoct subtler and even sublime ways to let you know that they, too, are in the know. These bagels are often the best. Like their doughy counterparts, cultural bagels are more flavorful when there is more to chew on:
Read the rest of this entry »

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The True Meaning of Christmas (and New Year)

Professor Lawrence Kelemen

Professor Lawrence Kelemen

There are many people (even Jews, r”l) who celebrate Christmas and the New Year (on Jan 1) and have no idea of where they came from and what they mean. The information in this video is sure to be an eye-opener to many of you. After watching, you’ll never look at Christmas or New Year again in the same light.

This video lecture was delivered by Lawrence Kelemen, Professor of Education at Neve Yerushalayim College of Jewish Studies for Women in Jerusalem.  After receiving his undergraduate degree from UCLA, Professor Kelemen continued with his graduate studies at Harvard University, and later completed twelve years of post-graduate field research in the Middle East.  Now an accomplished lecturer and author, Professor Kelemen electrifies parents, teachers , and university students across North and South America, Europe and the Middle East with his wit, humor, wisdom and gifts of insight into the essence of living a meaningful life.

Enjoy the video:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Ten Strategies to Avert or Survive a Financial Crises

prayerFollowing these ten directives from classical Jewish sources will help you weather financial downturns while strengthening your trust in Hashem:

Whenever you say the words “Baruch Atah Hashem…“, think of Hashem as the Master of Everything and Source of All Blessings.

Learn the laws of Tzedakah and Maaser scrupulously, and set up a special fund to ensure you give properly.

Accept the responsibility of daily Torah Study upon yourself, and the burden of your financial obligations may be eased.

Pray for a friend who has a similar need; you may be answered first.

Say a personal tefillah of gratitude for every small improvement; and make a resolution to recite Nishmat when your situation improves dramatically, to show your appreciation for Hashem’s help.

Invest your money according to the directives of Chazal:  a third in real estate, a third in business (i.e., stocks), and hold a third in cash. Read the rest of this entry »

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