Monday, March 30, 2009

No Christianity, No Islam, No America

Pesach (Passover) is coming and along with it comes chaos. For Orthodox Jews Passover means more just family and celebrating. It means removing every crumb of bread (rice, pretzels, bagels, popcorn - food in general) from every corner of your house. That means everything from vacuuming under (and inside) every piece of furniture to cleaning out any books that you may have gotten a crumb inside of at any time during the year.

Yes, we Orthodox Jews are crazy. 

I'm taking a moment, now, to remember that this holiday is not just about that craziness. It's about the miracles that G-d did when He freed the "Children of Israel" (we weren't "Jews" then - we were just "Israel's kids") from Egyptian slavery. 

Stop, for a moment, and think about what the world would be like if G-d had not taken us out of Egypt. There would be no Jewish nation. Chances are we would have, after another couple hundred years, have just lost our identity in Egypt and, at best, would have become lower-class Egyptian citizens. Worst case, we would have died out. Pharoah was killing all male "Israelite" babies, and without any "Jewish" boys, there would be no more Jewish families. 

Kaput. Our story would have ended before it began. 

Forget about the Land of Israel. It would never have been started. 

Forget about Christianity. Jesus would never have been born. 

Forget about Islam. Mohammed would never have met those Jews in the desert who inspired him to start his own religion

Would the American Revolution have been possible without its Jewish sponsors

No Christianity. No Islam. No America. Where the heck would the world be without the Jews?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Domestic Terrorism

If you're a Republican, you've got to love Gary Sinese. 

An Emmy-award winner, Golden Globe winner, Oscar nominee, and well-respected actor in Hollywood, Sinese is also an outspoken Republican who contributed both monetarily and professionally (by narrating a biography of a Navy Seal and Medal of Honor recipient at the Republican National Convention) to John McCain's presidential campaign.

Gary's most famous role, today, is the part of Detective Mac Taylor on CSI: NY. Aside from the massive American flag that waves at the end of the opening credits, and the knowledge that Mac's wife was killed on 9/11, (both symbols that the Republican party consider to be incredibly important) there's not really any mention of political leanings. 

And then there was, "Green Piece," a recent episode of CSI: NY which opens with a scene of a house exploding in New York. The scene, with a building exploding and debris flying through the air haphazardly, automatically brought me back to the horrible pictures of the Twin Towers on 9/11. I figured, though, that I was just being too sensitive.

The episode made it clear soon after, however, that its intention was to herald the audience back to the horrors of terrorism that we experienced on 9/11.  

For instance: The image of an FBI agent coming over to NYPD Detective Flack and offering his help in the investigation, and the NYPD detective’s skepticism that he’d actually follow through, was clearly a reference to the “Wall” that existed between security agencies prior to 9/11 that prevented agencies from stopping the 9/11 attacks.

The CSI (Crime Scene Investigator) agents’ first overt reference to terrorism in their investigation surprised me: 

Mac: In 1970 the Weathermen were using a townhouse in the Village as a bomb factory. Bomb went off accidentally, took the whole place down. Two of their members who were inside walked away. Weren't found for ten years.

The mention of the Weathermen, a domestic terrorist group whose leader, Bill Ayers, was a supporter of Barack Obama, was brief, but it caught my attention. And when the rest of the episode turned out to be about domestic eco-terrorists, it was clear, at least to me, that there was a political message in this episode.

The eco-terrorists in this episode, much like the Weathermen, claimed to be using terror as a necessary tool to stop horrors taking place in the United States. During the recent Presidential election, the discussion surrounding Bill Ayers on the part of the Democrats often led to claims that he did what was necessary in the face of a government perpetrating evil (with the Vietnam War). In this episode, the eco-terrorists similarly claimed that they needed to force Americans, through any means possibly, to recognize the harm that they were doing to the environment.

From beginning to end, the episode showed the horrors of terrorism, including the evil of the eco-terrorists’ actions, despite their “good intentions”. This message, alongside the line about the Weathermen, gave a clear message that even if Bill Ayers, and the Weathermen, had good intentions, that can never excuse the horrors that they perpetrated.

It was a brave statement to make in today’s political climate, where Barack Obama is viewed almost as a god whose friends and alliances no one would dare to question/

Good thing it came out of Sinese’s mouth.


Question: Am I no longer allowed to call myself "frum" now that I've mentioned I watched a TV show? 

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Don't Give Up

Here's the video that goes along with my last post, "Bad News is Everywhere." Except here, let's focus on the "Don't Give Up" part.

(Fast forward to a minute or so in for the start of the song.)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bad News is Everywhere

"Bad news is everywhere, shut my eyes, shut my ears and mouth; cause I know there's a better day coming blowing in from the North and the South." 
-Moshav Band

It's a terrible truth that bad things are everywhere. It was news of one of these bad things that made me question, as I tend to do, the the frum community's practice of marrying of their children when they're extremely young. 

The "news" was of a very young married girl who suffered a miscarriage. A horrible thing to happen under any circumstances, but when I heard of this particular case (not that it was the first that I'd heard) I found myself thinking about how horrible it was for this girl, who really is still a child herself, to have suffered such a tragedy. I asked myself, "Why are parents so eager to throw their children into the 'real world' by marrying them off so young? Yes, the wedding is a great simcha and it's a wonderful thing to celebrate, but what about after the wedding? Once married, these young children cannot be protected from the evils of the world anymore."

With bad news being everywhere, yesterday I heard another piece of "news" that broke my heart. Without going into details, a young girl in the frum community got married and almost immediately found out that her new husband was not who she thought he was. They are now discussing divorce.

This girl is still practically a child yet she is already faced with a failing marriage. She, who was sheltered in the frum community all her life, has been intimately exposed to a person and a situation that she could have been protected from if her parents had just let her have a few more years to grow up. Maybe if she'd had a little more life experience she would have been able to recognize the signs in the man who is now her husband, and the marriage could have been prevented. 

Her wedding was a great and joyous occasion, and as long as it was all lace and chocolate decadence everything was wonderful, but the "honeymoon" ended all too soon, and now the wedding is being seen as a tragedy for this girl who now has to deal with things that no child should have to deal with. 

In some frum communities there is, "a better day coming, blowing in from the North and the South," where getting married a little later (at 22, or 23 - young, huh?) is becoming more acceptable, but there are still so many communities that run to marry off their children in their teens. 

Parents, I'm begging you to look ahead for your child and consider that maybe they need to be eased into real life, instead of thrown into it abruptly with marriage. A beautiful wedding, while wonderful, is not enough to ease that transition. Children need a chance to grow up a little bit before they are married off and are immediately expected to act like adults. Think past the simcha of the engagement and the wedding (no, I'm not talking about grandchildren) and consider whether your child could use a little more time as a child before they have to start having children of their own. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Modern Day Haman

It is tradition on the Jewish holiday of Purim to read the story\history of the holiday from a book called Megillat Esther. The story talks about the Jewish people being in exhile in Persia and about how the vizier to the Persian emperor, a man named Haman, planned to kill the entire Jewish people. 

It's a familiar story to us Jews. Evil man planning to kill us. Nothing new there. 

When we read the story of Purim, every time the 'storyteller' mentions the name, "Haman," it is customary for those listening to "boo" him. It's great fun, especially for the kids. This year, however, while I was listening to the Megillah, everyone booed at something else. It was when the 'storyteller' told about the Persian emperor levying a "mas" on his country. 

I wasn't familiar with the Hebrew word, "mas," so I quickly looked over at the English translation only to find the the word means, "tax."

I think I giggled till the end of the reading after that. Only because laughing out loud would have bothered the other listeners. 

How appropriate is it that Purim comes right in the thick of tax season? Taxes are our modern-day Haman. They come to conquer us. They come to destroy us. 

G-d save us from the evil tax-man. 

Monday, March 9, 2009

Bringing BY to the streets of BH

Never again. No more alcohol. Ever. Even for (erev*) Purim

Purim is the Jewish holiday on which it is a mitzvah** to get drunk until the point that you don't know the difference between the holidays hero, Mordechai, and it's villain, Haman

That's what I decided to do at the pre-Purim party I went to. It didn't work out so well, for me. I got my first hangover ever and it has inspired me to never, ever, drink like that again. 

The good news is that, as the Jewish sages teach, "When the wine goes in, the secrets come out," and that the secrets that I had to share proved that I definitely am a frum feminist. 

That I'm frum I proved by informing a fella' that I would not be giving him my number because I'm Orthodox and only date Orthodox guys, and by refusing to touch any of the male guests at the party who stuck out their hand for me to shake.  

That I'm a feminist I proved through my snarling answer to a guy who tried to tell me that polygamy is not only halachically*** sanctioned, but is actually good for the Jewish people. 

Here's a little bit of how the conversation went...

Idiot: "So, like, did you girls graduate from, like, a Bais Yaakov kind of school?" 
My Friends and Me: "Like, yeah."  
(For some reason, the idiot doesn't take the hint that that means that he should bugger off and bother some other girls who might be interested in his idiocy...)
Idiot's Friend: "Tell them your theory about polygamy."
Idiot: "According to halacha, not only is it allowed but actually it's required."

What I should have said: "You're an idiot. Goodbye." 

What I actually said: "Um, that's a retarded thing to say." 
Idiot: "Seriously! The gezeira of Rabbeinu Gershom (prohibition of polygamy from a 10th Century rabbi) ended 50 years ago. And there's a great Rabbi in Israel who preaches that it's allowed, and even necessary, now. 
Me: Do you really want to argue with me about this? I'm a graduate of a BY (Bais Yaakov) type school, remember? You will not win this argument."
Idiot: (Idiotically ignores my warning)
Me: If you insist... 

First I pointed out the precept of Jewish law of, "Maaseh avos siman la'banim," which means that something that has become a custom for the Jewish people because the Rabbis collectively decided to follow it, (such as the prohibition against polygamy,) becomes Jewish law by default.This is because, "Torah lo bashamayim hee," which means that when G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people, he gave the authority over it to the Rabbis who, by majority rule, are supposed to make decisions regarding Jewish law. 

Me: "Besides, the prohibition against polygamy was renewed by the rabbis." (Just for idiots like you.)   
Idiot: "But this rabbi in Israel is a great scholar, and he says that considering the situation today, where there are more single Jewish women than single Jewish men, it's actually a kindness to allow a man to have more than one wife because it allows more women to get married and have children." 

Oh boy. That one really set me off. 
I nastilly informed him that his "rabbi" was just one amongst thousands, so his opinion really didn't matter. And that just because he was a Torah scholar that didn't mean that he knew what he was talking about because, "Chochma ba'goyim taamin, Torah ba'goyim al taamin," which is a teaching of the sages that means that even non-Jews have wisdom, but they don't have the wisdom of Torah, so his rabbi could be a brilliant scholar, but that didn't mean that he was scholarly enough to make decisions in Jewish law. 

Me: "You just believe this rabbi because you're pro-polygamy. It's a man's mitzvah to get married, not a woman's, and I guarantee that there isn't a single Jewish female out there who so bemoans her fate of being single that she'll willingly marry a man who already has a wife. " 
Idiot: "Actually, there are women in Israel who are married to men who have multiple wives - "
Me: "Those women are obviously ill. Polygamy is sexist and abusive and no woman with any self-respect or any sense of self-esteem would degrade herself by allowing another woman into her marriage." 

I finished off by advising him to never mention his pro-polygamy opinions again if he ever wanted to impress a girl, refused his invitation to go and get something to eat with him, and walked away without saying goodbye. 

You've learned a very important lesson today, chauvinists. Don't mess with a frum feminist. She's highly educated, highly intelligent, and won't take any crap (pardon my French) from you. So don't bother. You'll only end up looking like an idiot.

*erev - in this context, the word means that it's in the time leading up to Purim.
**mitzvah - commandment from G-d, also translated sometimes as, "a good deed".
***halachically - according to halacha, Jewish law

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Man Works Harder

Tonight my five year old niece explained to me that the reason why girls change their name to their husband's when they get married is because "the man works harder."

"Where'd you hear that from?" I asked her, trying not to frown. "Did someone tell you that or did you figure that out by yourself?" 

She just shrugged and moved on to something more interesting, leaving me wondering where she got that idea from. Did someone in her class tell her that, or did she figure it out from her (limited) life experience?

Why do we women take our husband's names, anyways? I'm not questioning it, nor am I saying that I want to keep my own last name when I get married, but I'm suddenly curious about where the custom came from. 

Does anyone know?

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Israeli dancing to rap music by Y-Love

Club dancing in flip-flops. 

A Breslov chassid dancing with modern Orthodox and non-religious guys. 

It's the Jewlicious Festival, and it's nothing if not fascinating to watch. 

For a "Jewish Woodstock," as LA Blueprint website called it, it was a lot smaller than I expected. The crowd in front of the stage was maybe 10 or 15 rows of people thick, with the rest of the room consisting of people just meandering about, dancing, or just watching. 

Some group (or maybe it was just one performer - I couldn't tell) named "Kosher Dillz" was rapping away on stage and I wasn't especially impressed with the cries of, "Oy vey all day!"

Dov Rosenblatt, of the band Blue Fringe, came up, and things started to get much better. Dov has a nice voice, plays guitar really well, and gave a very good performance. When the Moshav Band came on and sang a song with him, you could feel the excitement in the room growing. 

Then Moshav came on. The room was packed full and when Moshav started playing the crowd started moving together for the first time in the evening. Their music and charisma made it impossible not to be drawn in. The audience was so involved in the performance that they were practically breathing together. Without a doubt, they were the highlight of the evening. 

It seemed to go downhill from there. After Moshav left the stage, the room emptied out. The next performer, a German-Jewish pop singer, had a depressingly small audience, and when I wandered outside I found out it was because most of the crowd went to join a drum circle. 

My first drum circle. I was so NOT excited. But with the choice between a Jewish-German Britney Spears, dancing provacatively with a guy wearing a kippah who she called on stage, and a drum circle, I decided to just sit on the side and watch. 

The drummer wearing the, "60 Years of Getting Chai" did freak me out, but it was when the shofar came out that I knew it was time to leave. 

A dreadlocked-hippy playing a shofar in a drum circle fueled by the fumes of weed wafting through the air... That was just too much for me. Call me intollerant but it was so far out of my realm of normal that I didn't know what to do with myself. 

In spite of the scary parts, I had a pretty good time and I'm glad that I went, if only to see all different kinds of Jews coming together to dance and sing. 

Next time, though, can we do it without the drugs and alcohol, please?