Monday, October 31, 2016

Trump supporters are dumb

I was accosted this weekend by someone who told me that it was up to us, as Orthodox Jews, to put Trump in the White House because he'll stop the gay agenda. My top objections:
  1. Trump is an immoral, hedonist, vulgarian. He's not likely to be anti-gay.
  2. The president has no actual power to enact anti gay legislation. That's Congress's job.
  3. The rise of Christianity does more to affect and influence our lives than gay marriage. We hear more about Jesus and Christianity than we do about sodomy. In fact, when was the last time you saw an act of sodomy? Meanwhile, it can be hard to walk down the street without being bombarded by Christian images and messages.So why are you eager to shut down homosexuality but content to let Jesus flourish?
  4. You're a pot-smoking tax cheat, you hypocritical moron.
What did I leave out?

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

God is mean to us on Sukkot (in our imagination, anyway)

Have you noticed that Sukkot is the holiday in which we ascribe to God characteristics and personality traits we would find despicable in human beings?

He evaluates us based on the quality of the fruit we're toting around? He wants to hear us scream for rain at the end of the holiday? But if He makes it rain at the start of the holiday it's because He's feeling petulant about our previous behavior? Marching around in a parade with our vegetables give him pleasure? He decides if he likes us or not based on how vigorously we shake a twig?

I would not want to hang out with a human being who exhibited such shallow behavior, yet that's the deity I'm supposed to worship?

Note: I am aware that this mode of thinking is leftover from the days when feudal lords ruled the world, and dancing around their temper was the only way to get through the day. We had to simper and grovel, and they were often petulant, short-tempered and unreasonable. And we tend to think about God the same way we think about flesh and blood leaders. But today such behaviors are unacceptable in an authority figure. Tony Soprano has been replaced by Ronald Reagan. We respond to leaders who are fair, charismatic, selfless, rational and predictable. So how can we update the way we think about God and Sukkot to reflect this new mode of thinking?

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Yom Kippur: Mar + Matok

I'm the crazy person who really likes the Yom Kippur davening.  If the chazan and congregation are on their games, the result can be perfectly amazing. On a great Yom Kippur, the service will make me think and feel, while it elevates my emotions and leaves me spent. The afterglow is real.

In fact,  I'm so crazy, that I'd rather spend less time on  Viduy and Avinu Malkaynu and more time on the piyuttim. I like to read them and, when the chazzan is doing his job, I like to sing them, too. 

No claims about how any of this effects God and my din, however. I can only say what it does to me.

However, not everything about Yom Kippur is peaches and creme. 

Here are my Opposite of Top Yom Kippur moments:

1) Selling aliyot. I will never understand why "we need the money" is allowed to serve as an excuse to turn a place of prayer into a marketplace on one of the holiest days of the year. It fails as an excuse, because a) many of the places that sell honors don't actually "need money" and b) you could also prostitute the rabbi's wife, or put Nascar signs on the Aron for money. Point is some lines we don't cross, and it's weird to me that this isn't one of them.

2) The ArtScroll encouraged idea that "[The piyutim are] infinitely more than inspired poetry." See, "infinitely more than poetry" is NewSpeak, a way of hiding the frightening fact that it really IS poetry, and that our community, for all it's jive about being "authentic" is failing our fathers, and making a mistake by not teaching our young people to write and appreciate poetry.

3) The appeal after Kol Nidray. See #1

4) People who complain about how boring shul is, or spend the day reading or learning. Will you please kwicherbellyachin'? Please? This attitude, I've found, is more common in shtiebles, and its usually the people who identify themselves as "very frum" who think its holier to learn when the rest fo us are praying

5) Chazzanim who use new tunes for the piyutim. Call me an unreconstructed traditionalist, but I don't want to sing Maaseh Elokim to the latest Shwekcy hit. And though I recognize that some of the more "traditional" tunes were likely Russian drinking songs before we appropriated them, that isn't what they mean to me.

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Monday, October 10, 2016

Torah True Tashlich

The person who knows this is absurd and seeks to excuse it will say, "maybe they couldnt go to real body of water........" 

But, really? As if getting to a body of water is way more difficult then setting up a tent, bleachers and hiring a photographer?
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Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Rosh Hashana 2016

I feel like I gained 5 pounds and my head is swimming with synagogue music. On the one hand it's nice, and I am enjoying the buzz; on the other hand isn't this just about the cheapest form of spirituality?   

In other gashmius news I ate extremely well and for the most part enjoyed the 6.5 hr service for the and went home with my emotions elevated. This is because it feels nice to sit with your friends, listening to a high quality chazan, especially when you add in the cultural and historical significance. This is analogous to attending the opera, for those who like opera. Also, its nice sitting in shul with my sons. This is analogous to a long time Ranger fan sitting in the Garden with his kids during an important game.   

And how was your Rosh Hashana?

Canard au Miel
Moroccan Pot Roast with dried cherries
Grilled Pomegranate-Glazed Chicken With Tomato Salad

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